Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
A String of Pearls . . .
The beautiful collection of islands known as St. Vincent & The Grenadines were, until fairly recently, a well-kept secret. Those in the know still like to keep quiet about the pristine beaches, turquoise waters hidden coves and out-of-the way bars and restaurants. . .
Uncrowned, unhurried and unspoilt, Disney knew exactly where to go to when they were looking for a setting for the hit film Pirates of the Caribbean. St Vincent and the islands of the Grenadines were shown to fabulous effect on the big screen. St. Vincent & The Grenadines is comprised of more than 30 islands and cays in the Eastern Caribbean and nestled between St. Lucia and Grenada. Largest of the islands that make up this nation, St Vincent is divided into two regions, the Windward to the east and the Leeward to the west. The eastern region is lined with dark sand beaches and rocky shores and the western region is home to spectacular slopes and valleys that fall into the warmth of Caribbean Sea.
Internationally recognised as a fabulous sailing destination, St. Vincent & The Grenadines have a wonderful choice of treats to offer. Sun-worshippers enjoy the laid back luxury of Mustique, Young Island, Palm Island or Petit St. Vincent, while hikers and birdwatchers love St. Vincent’s Buccament Valley and the incredibly fertile land surrounding La Soufriere, the island’s dormant volcano.
St. Vincent has had an explosive past thanks to its Carib history and the 3000ft (950m) Soufriere volcano that dominates the island – but it looks forward to a future basking quietly in the sun. This fertile mountainous island was one of the last in the Caribbean to be colonised by Europeans. When they did move in, the Carib Indian inhabitants put up a fierce struggle to maintain their independence. You can see the evidence of the island’s earliest inhabitants in carvings on rocks at Layou and you can walk on a nature trail through the Buccament Valley to enjoy the sights and sounds of the rain-forest. The Trinity falls; three falls dropping 100ft (30m) to a natural whirlpool and the 60ft (18m) sheer Falls of Baleine are a must. And you can also take a restorative dip in the Owia Salt Pond. Volcanic eruptions have deposited ash that acts as a superb fertiliser, making the island a riot of tropical vegetation.
Beautiful St. Vincent has remained untouched by the ravages of mass-tourism. On this, 18 by 11 mile island (500sq km), the hotels, restaurants and bars retain the charm of a family touch. The capital of St. Vincent is Kingstown. Backed by a picturesque ridge of hills, much of the islands commerce is centered on Market Square, especially on a Friday and Saturday when local vendors bring in their colourful produce to sell. There are marvellous botanical gardens near Kingstown and high on a promontory above the town is Fort Charlotte, the island’s main defence from which there are wonderful views. It is also the hopping off point for the Grenadines, a string of 32 tiny islands and cays spreading south along a 45-mile (72km) arc. Some are well developed – but never crowded- others are little more than a lonely, unsoiled beach and a collection of houses. All offer some of the best sailing in the world. Each island has its’ own distinct character, whether it’s the exclusive decadence of Mustique, rustic appeal of Union island, the laid back-back vibe of Bequia or the idyllic isolation or Mayreau, the islands are renowned for their natural attributes that offer the perfect backdrop for peace and tranquillity. Appropriately named after the fascinating coconut palms that line its shores, Palm Island is a private island resort that delivers a relaxing comfortable vacation experience. Petite St. Vincent is a luxurious, quaint resort island that provides guests with perfect doses of intimacy, seclusion and privacy. Mayreau is also a privately owned island and can only be reached by boat. This tiny island is home to one resort and offers the avid vacationer a trip that won’t soon be forgotten. The largest island of the Grenadines, Bequia preserves the island lore that has traditionally catered to boat building, fishing and whaling. Canouan claims to possess the best beaches in the Caribbean, offering a spectacular coral reef and powder-white sand shores.
Water sport enthusiasts will find the tropical seas present a challenge to windsurfers and a delight for divers and snorkelers, including sheer walls and abundant coral. You can glide from island to island in an hour or so in trade winds of 10-25 knots, swimming ashore to a beach bar, watching giant sea turtles and bumping into visitors from all over the world for a drink at sunset.. Or you can take ferries or fly in charter aircraft to see Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, the Tobago Cays, Union Island, Petit St. Vincent and Palm Island.
Although some typical golden Caribbean beaches are to be found in St. Vincent, the island is famous for its black stretches of volcanic sand, dotted along its entire coastline. For experienced hikers only, the 3-hour climb to La Soufriere, the active volcano remains one of St. Vincent’s major attractions. Scientists continuously monitor the volcano and keep watch for any activity. It last blew in 1979.
A visit to the Botanical Gardens on St. Vincent is a favourite stop for both visitors and locals. Founded in 1762, they are the oldest gardens in the Western Hemisphere. Six hundred feet above the bay at Kingstown, the capital, Fort Charlotte guards the waters. Some of the old barracks, built in 1806, now house a museum of colourful history of the Black Caribs depicted on its walls. There are two magnificent cathedrals on St. Vincent. St. George’s Anglican cathedral, with its spectacular stained-glass windows and St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral built dark volcanic-sand bricks. The Vermont Nature Trail runs through the verdant Buccament Valley. Ideal for hikers and birdwatchers, more that 35 species of bird have been spotted here. Exclusive and luxurious, the private island of Mustique has long been associated with wealth and royalty. Mick Jagger is just one among many who have villas here. Sail over from St. Vincent and have lunch at Basil’s Bar. Once only accessible by sea. Bequia continues to be a favourite destination for yachtsmen from around the world. the main port is the picturesque Admiralty Bay. The beautiful Tobago Cays have been declared a government Wildlife Reserve. Try Petit Tabac, where Johnny Depp was marooned in Pirates of the Caribbean. This is a good choice for scuba diving in the area. Inter island ferries are a great way to see all the islands and the surrounding ocean – although only recommended when the seas are calm.
Carnival in June and July or ‘Vincy Mas’ as it is affectionately dubbed, explodes in spectacular fashion in a 12-day festival of pan, mas (masquerade), calypso, and revelry.
The Mustique/Bequia Blues Festival in February line up varies from year to year with Dana Gillespie gathering around her a host of talented musicians, in a series of relaxed and informal parties.
The Union Island Maroon Festival in May is an annual festival and one of the most important cultural events on the island. It is held every year in the month of May, three days before or after the full moon and marks the start of the planting season.
St. Vincent Wine & Dine
Basil’s Bar and Restaurant (+784 457 2713) on Upper Bay Street is one of the most popular bars in Kingstown. Basil’s has a tasty menu including a buffet lunch for around EC$16, while the dinner menu features a range of local and international cuisine such as lobster in Mornay sauce EC$65.
The Bounty Restaurant (+784 456 1776) is a pleasant cafe overlooking the bustling heart of Kingstown doubles as a small art gallery and secondhand bookshop. It serves numerous breakfast options including salt fish and bake and fresh local fruit juices from EC$8, and there are various Rotis and curries for lunch. The Rainbow Palace is very popular with locals, this excellent eat-in or take-away restaurant and bar serves the best and cheapest Rotis in town as well as a good selection of burgers, sandwiches and salt fish for EC$3-13.
St. Vincent – Where to Stay.
Kingstown and Villa Beach offer St. Vincent’s highest concentration of accommodation options, this is a good base, regardless of where you may visit on the island.
The Young Island Resort (+784 458 4826) is the most romantic and expensive place to stay on the island, consisting of luxury cottages each with ocean views, private terraces and fresh fruit and flowers. There’s also a pool, tennis courts and a white-sand beach outfitted with sun lounges and hammocks. Its gardens are a national wildlife reserve. Meals at the on-site restaurant are inventive and elegantly served. Microsoft multi-millionaire Bill gates once hired Young Island in its entirety. Over US$250
New Haddon Hotel (+784 456 1897) on Mckies Hill is a charming rambling hotel on the outskirts of Kingstown offers pleasant rooms and self-contained apartments both with modern amenities. The on site Mango Tree restaurant, resplendent in polished oak and local stone, serves fine food and fantastic cocktails. From US$100-200.
The Cobblestone Inn (+784 456 1937), on Upper Bay Street, is housed in a restored sugar warehouse; this gem of a hotel, with its cobblestone walkways and arches is a tranquil heaven. The comfortable rooms are individually decorated and come with all the amenities. From US$50-75
The Grenadines – Where to Stay
The Grenadines boast some of the most luxurious resorts in the world. Now a tranquil, luxury all-inclusive resort, Palm Island is the perfect getaway for people who want to escape from it all. Surrounded by crystal clear waters the island has five sparkling white beaches. While Petit St. Vincent or PSV, as it is often called, has privacy guaranteed. Just 22 hideaway cottages are scattered over the island. Want to be alone? Send up the red flag on the pole outside your cottage or hoist the yellow flag for staff service.
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