A chain of volcanic islands, islets and sandbanks, St Vincent and the Grenadines are largely undiscovered. Steeped in sailing and pirate history, they offer peaceful and secluded white-sand beaches, a relaxed pace of life and a sleepy old-worldliness. The beaches are decidedly low-key and often deserted, regardless of the time of year, and the nearby reefs are teeming with colourful fish.
Explore the undiscovered island of Bequia
Bequia is a charming island, just nine miles south of St Vincent, the northernmost island of the Grenadines. Although the largest of the Grenadine islands, Bequia only measures 18 sq km (7 sq miles) and is largely undiscovered.
The Grenadines are known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and Bequia has more than its fair share. We recommend exploring Friendship Beach, Princess Margaret Beach, Lower Bay and Industry Bay, some of the best Bequian beaches we've encountered.
Bequia’s pristine waters boast excellent diving opportunities. Most sites are on the western side, with over 30 sites in total, most easily accessible within a short boat ride. Sites range from shallow dives over colourful reefs to drift dives, cave dives, dramatic wall dives and wreck dives.
Hop from Bequia to St Vincent by local fast ferry
This no-frills but efficient mode of travel provides a great opportunity to see the locals going about their daily business. Leaving from Bequia, an hour’s journey will deliver you to Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent. Also referred to as ‘The City of Arches’, Kingstown is a bustling and lively place, with cobbled streets, magnificent churches and historic buildings.
The produce market on a Friday and Saturday is a colourful array of fresh fruit and vegetables, which have been brought from all over the island by the many vendors here. Most of the island is still covered in lush vegetation, and remains mostly undeveloped. La Soufrière volcano, standing 1,234 m (4,000 ft) high, boasts exhilarating views from its summit, which you can reach after a demanding hike.
Take an island tour of Bequia by open-backed taxi
Easy to arrange with a local taxi driver, you can travel around the island in three hours for a really good overview of the island, choosing to see as much or as little as you want. After a drive through Port Elizabeth, the central point of Bequia, you'll discover lush green meadows, deserted beaches, densely wooded hillsides, and can stop for spectacular views out across the islands of the Grenadines.
Visit artists’ studios, pass hillsides alive with sheep and goats, and fabulous flora and fauna and discover fishing villages with boat builders executing a skill passed down for generations. This is a leisurely and informative drive that will give you a real sense of the history and heritage hidden just below Bequia's surface.
Sail to Tobago Cays
St Vincent and the Grenadines has a strong seafaring history and no visit here is complete without a sailing trip to the Tobago Cays. These five tiny, uninhabited islands, accessible only by boat, boast some of the best sailing and snorkeling in the Caribbean due to the spectacular horseshoe reef that creates a calm lagoon with unbelievably blue water.
There is ample time for snorkelling and swimming on a full day tour and if you’re lucky, you may also spot dolphins, whales, turtles and flying fish that frequent the waters here.
You could also charter a private yacht to explore this region, which is, arguably, the most relaxing way to explore. With a crew on board, you can simply laze on the sundeck and watch the islands pass by. Your captain will be able to sail through Tobago Cays, dropping anchor whenever you like. It’s possible to spend a day on board, or spend a few nights at sea on a spacious catamaran with en-suite state rooms.
Stay on a private Island
Of the 32 islands making up St Vincent and the Grenadines, only nine are inhabited, and most privately owned. Spending time on a secluded private island, it’s easy to appreciate the laid-back ambience of the Caribbean.
Palm Island was leased from the St Vincent and the Grenadines government by an American couple for one dollar on the proviso that a hotel was built to provide employment for locals. The resulting resort is a collection of rooms and suites dotted around the northeast corner of the island. Days spent on the island can be whiled away under the shade of a palm tree, or exploring the inland nature trails.
Whilst most of the island is reserved only for guests, Casuarina Beach, the largest stretch of beach, is open to day visitors. With a small marina and easygoing beach bar, it’s ideal to sail to for a glimpse of island life.
Completely switch off on Petit St Vincent
Deserving of its name, Petit St Vincent is the smallest island in the Grenadines chain. With just 22 individual cottages discreetly placed around the island, it’s an exclusive retreat. Guests are encouraged to completely unplug, with no Wi-Fi, televisions or phones in the rooms. If you need room service, you’ll need to hoist the flag outside your cottage.
Inland, the rainforest has been left untamed. Follow one of the hiking trails across the island and you will come upon one of the many soft-sand beaches, some dressed with hammocks and sunshades, others left completely natural. It can feel like a real desert island and you can go all day without seeing another guest.
Become a castaway on a sandbank
There are few experiences as secluded as relaxing on a sandbank. The islets of Mopion and Punaise, in the southern Grenadines chain, are twin shifting sandbanks. Changing size and shape with the tide, they average 50 m (164 ft) long and 20 m (65 ft) wide. Mopion is furnished with a single thatched umbrella, Punaise is simply bare sand.
Many hotels can arrange for a cruise to the islands with your captain leaving you ashore, sailing back to collect you later. Enjoy a picnic lunch in complete privacy on your own island. Bring snorkeling equipment and you can slip into the shallow waters to explore the surrounding corals.
Walk the coastal path of Union Island
Home to the southernmost marina of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Union Island has a rustic charm. Taking a trip to the island by boat, it’s easy to step on shore and visit in a day.
The simplest way to explore is to follow the coastal path that circles the island and passes through the main towns of Clifton and Ashton. Linger a little in Ashton, a traditional fishing village, to see the vibrantly painted fishing boats.
Detour a little to climb Old Fort Hill above Clifton town and you’ll be rewarded with views across the Grenadine chain. Once an outpost for French troops, a 17th century French fort lies ruined below.