The islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the southern Caribbean, have long been beloved for their unassuming charm. While substantial resorts and superyacht hubs dominate the islands to the north, St. Vincent and the Grenadines have remained more rustic, more natural and—some would argue—more authentic in terms of the Caribbean’s true spirit. It’s still possible, in this part of the Caribbean, to cruise into a harbor, dinghy ashore and spend an hour or two sipping rum punch as the lone visitor chatting up the owner of a colorful beach bar.
Since 2017, when the monstrous hurricane season devastated some islands to the north, more and more private and charter yachts have been discovering the wonders of these islands to the south. The island of St. Vincent is the largest in the archipelago, and the big island’s Argyle International Airport, along with port and marina services in the capital of Kingstown, make the island a jumping-off point for cruising south and exploring the whole of the territory.
Here’s a look at some of the beauty and culture that cruisers are finding when they point the bow south.
With only about 5,300 residents and a landmass of about 7 square miles, Bequia is the second-largest island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There are more villas for rent here than there are hotels and guesthouses on shore (with only about a dozen of the latter), helping to give the island a genuine vibe as opposed to a touristy one. Port Elizabeth is the official port of entry and receives ferries from Kingstown on St. Vincent along with some yachts, while Admiralty Bay on the leeward coast is a popular yacht anchorage.
Some of the prime times to visit Bequia traditionally include January, for the Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest; April, for the Bequia Easter Regatta; and June, for Bequia Carnival. The regatta has been held for more than three decades and typically includes about two dozen smaller boats along with more than 30 yachts competing under the rules of the Caribbean Sailing Association.
The tortoises, herons and iguanas tend to outnumber the people on Mustique, where the human population rarely tops 1,200, even during prime winter cruising months. Basil’s Bar, on the waterfront in Brittania Bay, is a favorite among yachtsmen looking for a happy hour cocktail or a tasty meal. For a bird’s-eye view of Brittania Bay and the Caribbean Sea beyond, hike up to Patrick’s Bar at the seven-room Firefly hotel, whose high-season rates including meals are $1,600 a night. The drink of choice here is the martini, offered more than a dozen ways beyond shaken, not stirred.
The Tobago Cays are a nature lover’s paradise—especially for underwater enthusiasts. These islands are uninhabited, with the marine park spanning about 19 square miles and ringed with beaches. Sea turtles, conch, lobsters and iguanas can all be found here, and in the shallows, the underwater photography of the more colorful fish and turtles can be fantastic because of the lagoon’s bright, sandy bottom. The only way into the Tobago Cays is by boat, and in normal times it’s wise to figure out the local schedules for day tours and water taxis, so as to avoid the temporary crowds. Most people make a beeline to favorite spots including the Baradal Turtle Sanctuary, where snorkelers can watch as green and hawksbill turtles do their natural thing, looking for food and swimming around.
PETIT ST. VINCENT
Petit St. Vincent is actually quite far from the big island of St. Vincent; the smaller island is to the south, near Carriacou and Petite Martinique. The whole of Petit St. Vincent is about 115 acres operated as a single resort with two dozen cottages and villas, along with beachside and hillside restaurants.
Don’t let the size of the island fool you: It may be small, but its food and wine offerings are mighty. The wine cellar holds more than 4,500 bottles, and the sommelier has an affinity for collecting barrel-aged Caribbean rums along with Cuban cigars.
In the main restaurants, meals are often composed around locally caught fish of the day, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and free-range eggs from the chickens on the island. The beach restaurant is more casual and serves comfort foods including clay-oven pizza and black Angus burgers. And of course, neighboring Goatie’s Bar has a house-special rum punch.
For anyone interested in a serious surf-and-turf investment, the entire island can be rented for private use, say, in conjunction with a charter yacht.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue.