About St Vincent and the Grenadines beaches
Known by the Caribs as Hairoun (‘Land of the Blessed’), St Vincent is the central island of the nation known as St Vincent and the Grenadines. The group consists of more than 30 islands and cays spread out like broken chain links between St Vincent and southward to Grenada. Still largely untouched by tourism, most hotels are small and stress individualized service. On St Vincent, the Botanic Garden founded in 1765 claims to be the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The garden contains a real prize, one of the original breadfruit trees brought from Tahiti in 1793 by Captain Bligh after the famous Bounty mutiny. St Vincent proudly bears the nickname ‘The Breadfruit Isle’. South of St Vincent, the Grenadines resemble the South Pacific with its string of uninhabited islands surrounded by crystal clear water and white sand beaches.
Due to the island’s volcanic origin, most of St Vincent beaches are black sand with two notable exceptions at Villa and Indian Bay, where many hotels are located. For classic white sand beaches, choose the Grenadines such as Union Island, Canouan, Mustique and Bequia.
Beyond the beach:
St Vincent contains the most interesting attractions of the islands. Besides exploring the Botanic Garden (located off the Leeward Highway in Kingstown) and viewing its strain of Captain Bligh’s breadfruit, hike up 1,234m (4,048ft) La Soufriere, an active volcano that last erupted in 1979. North of Kingstown, the Vermont Nature Trails venture through a lush rain forest where you might glimpse the rare and colorful St Vincent parrot. The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary (Park Beach, Bequia) offers the chance to view endangered hawksbill turtle hatchlings close-up. The young turtles are raised until three to five years old when they’re too large for most predators and then released.
Fort Charlotte, which sits at 183m (600ft) above St Vincent’s Kingstown, has some of its few remaining cannons facing inland because the British were as worried about the fierce Carib Indians as foreign invaders. Spend a day picnicking and swimming at Owia Salt Pond, a bathing pool enclosed by lava peaks and ridges but protected from the pounding Atlantic surf.
There are so many islands to see, depending on your time and budget. Charter a sailboat to leisurely explore the Grenadines or fly to one of the islands with its own small airport. Three well known islands (St Lucia, Barbados and Grenada) are also an easy flight away for day or overnight trips.
Hop the 10-minute flight to the romantic island of Mustique (pronounced Mus-TEEK) to watch for the green flash at legendary Basil’s Bar at Britannia Bay (www.basilsmustique.com). For many years this thatched pub on stilts sitting over the water was the island’s only watering hole and attracted the cream of Mustique’s rich and famous vacationers like Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret. The best time to visit Basil’s, located 29km (18 miles) south of St Vincent, is Wednesday for the weekly beach barbecue and Jump Up (dance) or on Sundays for karaoke.