An ABC for SVG | Explore

Twenty-six ways to experience the best of St Vincent and the Grenadines — in alphabetical order

  • The gorgeous expanse of Bequia’s Princess Margaret Bay. Photo by Hemiis/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Enchanting Dark View Falls on St Vincent's leeward coast. Photo by mbrand85/Shutterstock.com
  • Volcanic rocks create a natural bathing spot at the Owia Salt Pond. Photo by Dmitri V Tonkopi/Shutterstock.com
  • Spot the endangered St Vincent Parrot along the Vermont Nature Trail — or at Kingstown’s historic Botanic Gardens. Photo by Krystyna Szulecka/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Young Island in Villa Bay is where you can practise “castaway chic”. Photo by Milan Portfolio/Shutterstock.com

Discover St Vincent & the Grenadines

Grown by the Caribbean’s indigenous peoples for seven thousand years, the arrowroot plant produces rhizomes which, when pulped and dried, give in a fine, starchy powder that was a staple of Victorian cuisine, and is still used to make cakes, biscuits, and jellies. Once the main export crop of St Vincent, arrowroot remains popular as a gluten-free alternative for today’s health-conscious chefs.

The second-largest of the Grenadines, Bequia — the “island of the clouds” — lies ten miles south of St Vincent, an easy ferry ride (or an even quicker hop in a small plane). Bequia’s gorgeous beaches — Princess Margaret Beach is the best known — and accessible dive sites are the main attraction, but Easter time also brings the popular annual regatta, attracting seafarers of all levels of skill and enthusiasm.

If you think Bequia is laid back, pay a visit to Canouan, twenty miles further south. Once a centre for shipbuilding, the island is famous for its luxury resorts, but the glorious reef-fringed beaches are also accessible on a day-trip by ferry from Kingstown.

Despite the ominous name, the double cascades of Dark View Falls on St Vincent’s leeward coast are considered the most enchanting of the island’s numerous waterfalls. An easy hike through rainforest and bamboo groves leads to the plunge pools at the foot of each fall, with facilities like changing rooms and a viewing platform to enhance the experience.

All of fifty feet long, a bar of brilliant white sand barely poking about the waves, Mopion in the southern Grenadines is sometimes called the smallest island in the Caribbean. And it’s home to a sole structure: the thatched Engagement Umbrella, just big enough to provide shade for two, and supposedly a favoured spot for wedding proposals.

Like most Caribbean islands, St Vincent was fought over for centuries by European colonial powers — and the physical evidence includes the forts, in various stages of preservation or ruin, scattered through the landscape. Most were designed to protect the coast from invading ships, but at Fort Charlotte, on a hill overlooking Kingstown, the defences also faced inland, to guard against the indigenous Caribs.

Kingstown’s Botanic Gardens are thought to be the second-oldest in the Americas, founded in 1765. Twenty acres are planted with flora from around the tropical world, a historical legacy still in bloom.

St Vincent’s original indigenous name, Hairouna — “land of the blessed” — is shared by the local brew. Hairoun, brewed since 1985, is Vincies’ beer of choice — accounting, it’s claimed, for four out of five bottles sold in the country.

Just a mile southeast of Kingstown, Indian Bay is a popular swimming and snorkeling spot. It’s also where Vincentian artist Nadia Huggins captures the underwater scenes in her eerily beautiful photographs, which have been shown internationally (and previously featured in Caribbean Beat — see our July/August 2015 issue).

If the uninhabited Tobago Cays are the most picturesque of the Grenadines, Jamesby Island — also sometimes called James Bay — may be the prettiest of all. A brilliant white sand beach is barely big enough for a handful of coconut trees, and a rocky cliff offers shelter. The only way to arrive is by boat.

Founded in 1722 by the French, Kingstown has served as capital of St Vincent for almost three hundred years, nestled in the shelter of the island’s leeward hills. It’s nickname, “city of arches,” comes from the traditional arcades that shelter pedestrians from both sun and rain. The Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, both near Victoria Park, remain the most prominent architectural landmarks.

Amerindian petroglyphs, or rock drawings, have been found at sites around St Vincent, but the easiest place to encounter these mysterious artworks of the past is the village of Layou, north of Kingstown. A short trail from the visitors’ centre leads to a riverside boulder with carvings that intrigue historians as much as they puzzle.

A scrubby island named for its mosquitoes and home to failed cotton plantations doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of a holiday paradise. But in the 1960s an ambitious English nobleman bought the island of Mustique and transformed it into an ultra-chic getaway for rock stars and royalty — including Princess Margaret. Nowadays Mustique is just as famous for Basil’s Bar, watering-hole for jet-setters and day-trippers alike, and host of the annual Mustique Blues Festival, which raises money to give scholarships to schoolchildren.

Since 1969, the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust has helped protect and manage the country’s historical heritage, including sites like the Layou Petroglyph Park (see above), Fort Duvernette on a dramatic rocky islet, and Kingstown’s Carnegie Building — originally a public library, now home to the National Archaeological Collection as well as the National Trust’s own headquarters.

Near St Vincent’s northernmost tip, the Owia Salt Pond is a natural saltwater pool formed by long-ago volcanic activity, creating a bathing spot sheltered from but continually refreshed by the crashing Atlantic waves. A national park protects the nearby shore and forest, and the village of Owia is a traditional stronghold of St Vincent’s indigenous Black Caribs.

St Vincent’s mountain rainforests are home to the island’s most prized bird species, the endemic St Vincent Parrot (Amazona guildingii), with its striking yellow and white head, violet wings, and yellow-tipped tail. An estimated 750 of this rare bird remain in the wild, but you can also observe them in the aviary at the St Vincent Botanic Gardens.

Just north of Kingstown, Questelles Bay was once voted the best beach in mainland St Vincent — and that’s saying a lot. There are actually three distinct beaches in the bay, the first accessible by road and the others via something of a rocky scramble — the better to keep their black volcanic sand pristine.

The breadfruit, native to the Pacific and famously introduced to the Caribbean via St Vincent in the late eighteenth century, is indelibly associated with the island not just through history, but as its national dish — roast breadfruit, specifically. The simple traditional recipe calls for cooking the fruit outdoors over an open wood or charcoal fire.

At 4,049 feet, Soufrière is St Vincent’s highest peak, and also its most dramatic geological feature: an active volcano which last erupted in 1979. Today, scientists carefully monitor the volcano for seismic activity and any sign of a coming eruption, and the hike up its steep slopes and into the huge crater offers unforgettable views of the northern end of the island.

Near the southern end of SVG’s maritime territory, the Tobago Cays Marine Park protects one of the most stunning seascapes in the Caribbean, a sandy lagoon fringed by coral reefs and studded with five tiny islets. Up to eight thousand yachts visit the park each year, drawn to the clear turquoise water and abundant sea life, from turtles to starfish.

Closer to Grenada than to mainland St Vincent, Union Island is SVG’s southernmost territory, with a profile of rugged volcanic hills that once won it the nickname “Tahiti of the West Indies.” Those same hills — Mt Olympus, Mt Parnassus, and Mt Taboi — offer good hiking, preferably followed by a swim at one of the reef-fringed beaches.

The Buccament Valley, sloping down to St Vincent’s leeward coast, boasts the Vermont Nature Trail, a well-tended two-mile hiking route winding through the rainforest and ending at a panoramic lookout. It’s the best place to see the St Vincent Parrot in the wild, alongside dozens of other bird species and a rich cross-section of the island’s flora.

The sheltered leeward coast, facing the Caribbean Sea, is where you’ll find St Vincent’s best swimming beaches. The windward coast, open to the vast Atlantic, is a wilder and more rugged place. Follow the Windward Highway northwards, with sandstone cliffs on one side and black volcanic beaches on the other, through the 350-foot-long Black Point Tunnel, dug in 1815. Past Georgetown and in the vicinity of Sandy Bay is the territory of the Black Caribs, descendants of indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans who preserve a distinct way of life, and once threatened the British hold on the island in the Carib Wars of the eighteenth century,

X marks the spot on a good pirate map — as any fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series can tell you. Fans also know that St Vincent’s Wallilabou Bay was one of the main locations for the film franchise. Nothing survives of the temporary sets, but you can still pay a visit to the place where Captain Jack Sparrow swashbuckled his way to iconhood.

“Castaway chic” is how the tourist guides sometimes describe Young Island, a resort on a private island in Villa Bay. Cottages dotted across thirteen acres of gardens overlook a tiny but perfect beach, and quiet seclusion is the prevailing atmosphere.

Close your eyes, and imagine the scene: as you swing gently in your hammock, a soft breeze caresses you. All around you are shrubs laden with tropical blossoms, and the soundtrack is the rustle of waves against the shore, and the quiet cooing of a zenaida dove. The biggest decision in your immediate future: beach or nap? Welcome to SVG. 


ADVERTORIALS

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the lesser travelled and explored Caribbean destinations. Relatively untouched by mass tourism, it is a thrilling discovery for those who seek unspoilt hideaways. Submit yourself to its thirty-two islands and cays and be revitalised in mind, body, and spirit. You are specially invited to experience the “Renewal at 40” celebrations as SVG commemorates forty years of
Independence on 27 October, 2019, with a year of activities.

Perched on a hillside overlooking the Caribbean Sea, Hotel Alexandrina is located in a secluded, eco-friendly environment. This modern and elegant twenty-seven-room apartment suite hotel is a prime location for a business conference, family reunion, or simply for relaxation. Just ten minutes from the beach and fifteen minutes from the airport. T: (784) 456-9788

Paradise Beach Hotel, located in Villa Beach, offers twenty-five tastefully decorated rooms and apartments with modern amenities. Enjoy local and international dishes at our restaurant overlooking the bay. Pool, spa, conference facilities, wedding planning, and Fantasea Tours on site.

Sugarapple includes two properties in Bequia: Sugarapple Inn, a B&B with a garden pool, and Sugarapple on the Beach, a charming beachside duplex cottage. All Sugarapple units are self-contained with full kitchens, combining convenience and style.

The MV Admiral 11 offers a speedy, comfortable journey with regular daily crossings between Bequia and St Vincent. This ferry has been in service to the people and visitors of St Vincent and the Grenadines for over twenty-five years.

Caribbean Airlines operates direct flights to St Vincent’s Argyle International Airport from Trinidad, with connections to other destinations in the Caribbean and North and South America