Paradise Found: Exploring St. Vincent & the GrenadinesJul 12, 2018
Photo: Friendship Beach is where you'll find Bequia Beach Hotel, Credit: Bequia Tourism
By: Melanie Reffes
Thirty minutes as the gull flies from Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a strand of 32 islands strung like a necklace across the Caribbean Sea. With short distances between them, the archipelago hits the vacation bullseye with sky blue water fronting sandy coastlines, volcanic landscapes, yacht-filled harbors and locals delighted to lime with tourists enjoying their paradise found. www.discoversvg.com
Photo: St. Vincent Botanic Gardens in Kingstown is popular with nature lovers, Credit: Melanie Reffes
On southwest coast of St. Vincent, the cobblestone capital city Kingstown is easy to navigate on foot although there are plenty of taxis available for exploring. With cannons pointed inland, Fort Charlotte is a must-see while churches dating to the 1800’s are catnip for history buffs. Near the ferry pier, the market is chockablock with tropical treasures and craft vendors that set up shop on the sidewalk. Nearby, Heritage Square comes alive at sunset when musicians get groovy with their busta move soundtracks. For a quiet afternoon, St. Vincent Botanic Gardens is peaceful with stately palm and mahogany trees, fragrant with nutmeg and hibiscus and, according to local lore, home to a breadfruit tree grown from a seedling that was brought from Tahiti by Captain Bligh. The aviary is worth a look-see for St. Vincent parrots; the national bird of the Grenadines.
Photo: Hiking to La Soufriere Volcano is a top-of-the-world adventure, Credit: SVG Ministry of Tourism
For hikers in reasonably good shape, La Soufriere Volcano is a top-of-the-world adventure. The highest peak on the island, treks to the crater’s edge pass through the rainforest and banana plantations on the windward coast. The best beaches with black volcanic sand are on the west coast where the swashbuckler trilogy ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was filmed while the busiest strand is Villa Beach with calm waves and watersports kiosks.
Bays, boats and bougainvillea
Photo: In Bequia, Princess Margaret Beach is never crowded, Credit: RPM Media
Measuring 7 square miles, Bequia (pronounced ‘Beck-way’), is the most visited island in the Grenadines. The darling of seafarers, honeymooners and beach aficionados, signatures include hillsides sprinkled with bougainvillea, golden sand beaches that disappear into coves, gingerbread houses shaded by almond trees and Admiralty Bay on the Leeward coast. Ferries make the short trip from Kingstown to Port Elizabeth with its funky bars, restaurants and market. At the south end, a trail leads to Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay for sublime snorkeling. Steeped in maritime history, model sailboat builders are delighted to show off their studios while adventurous travelers climb the forested peaks for spectacular views of the neighboring islands and photographers take to the water to watch pods of dolphins skimming the waves. Beds for heads include Bequia Beach Hotel on Friendship Beach www.bequiabeachhotel.com and Frangipani Hotel www.frangipanibequia.com proudly featured in the book ‘ 1,000 Places To See Before You Die ‘ . For those who plan ahead, Easter Regatta is on the calendar from April 11 to 15, 2019. www.bequiatourism.com/
Celebrities, coral reefs and a beach named Macaroni
Photo: Basil's Bar is the go-to for lobsters and fruity cocktails, Credit: Basil's Bar
Legendary for its celebrity beachcombers and sultry sunsets, Mustique is more than a vacation playground for the rich and famous. Flip-flop elegant, the pretty island impresses with immaculately manicured lawns, gentle surf on Macaroni Beach and happy hour at Basil’s Bar perched on stilts above Brittania Bay. With its own airport, the island is home to top-shelf villas and charming hotels like 15-bedroom Cotton House www.cottonhouse.net and Firefly Mustique with just 7 boho chic rooms.www.fireflymustique.com
Luxury and Lobsters
Photo: Pink Sands Club Canouan is the first Mandarin Oriental resort in the Caribbean, Credit: Pink Sands Club
A fifteen minute flight from St. Vincent, Canouan is the go-to for talc white beaches, delectable lobsters and the Jim Fazio-designed 18-hole Grenadines Estate Golf Course with a sundowner at the 13th hole a not-to-be-missed treat. With a handful of small hotels, standouts include Tamarind Beach offering tours to swim with the turtles http://tamarind-canouan.com and Pink Sands Club; the first Mandarin Oriental Resort to open in the Caribbean. www.mandarinoriental.com
Photo: Lobster feasts are popular on Canouan, Credit: SVG Tourism
Photo: Coconut Bar on Young Island, Credit: Mike Toy
A short ferry ride from Kingstown, Young Island is a relaxing retreat with fruity foot scrubs at the spa and Cottage # 6 where Johnny Depp stayed while filming the Pirates movies. Capped by volcanic peaks, Union Island invites with a retro-Caribbean vibe, hikes up the hills and lazy afternoons on the unspoiled beaches that fringe the north coast. With no big resorts, the main street in Clifton is charming with cafes, bistros and perches to salute the sunset. One mile from Union Island and named for the coconut palms planted by the former owners of the Palm Island Resort & Spa, Palm Island is picture-perfect with five sandy beaches and snorkeling in translucent water.
Photo: Mayreau Beach is on the smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines, Credit: SVG Ministry of Tourism
The smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines, Mayreau is home to only a few hundred locals, reefs teeming with sea life, Saltwhistle Bay Club Resort, spirited bars and Salt Whistle Bay on the northern tip considered one of the Caribbean's prettiest with white sand and coconut palms lining the horseshoe-shaped crescent.
Photo: The only permanent residents of Tobago Cays are green turtles Credit SVG Tourism
Part of the Tobago Cays Marine Park, Tobago Cays is a mecca for snorkelers who exploring the warm shallow water home to a thriving population of underwater critters. Accessible only by boat from one of the other Grenadines, the lagoons are brimming with green turtles and the beaches carpeted with sand the color of white snow. Privacy-seekers like the petite island called Petit St. Vincent where the Petit St. Vincent Resort is without telephones, Wi-Fi and televisions. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the resort uses a flag system for guests to communicate with the attentive staff. www.petitstvincent.com
Photo: A leisurely brunch on Petit St. Vincent, Credit Neil Selkirk Photography
Photo: Awesome vistas of Palm Island from Union Island, Credit: SVG Ministry of Tourism
American Airlines launches nonstop flights from Miami to Argyle International Airport on December 22. Caribbean Airlines flies from New York’s JFK and flights from Barbados, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia and Trinidad are offered via LIAT, Caribbean Airlines, Mustique Airways and SVG Air. Air Canada Rouge operates a weekly nonstop from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. www.svgtourism.com