St Vincent & the Grenadines
Just the name St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) evokes visions of exotic, idyllic island life. Imagine an island chain in the heart of the Caribbean Sea, uncluttered by tourist exploitation, with white-sand beaches on deserted islands, sky-blue water gently lapping the shores and barely a soul around.
While it may sound like a playground for the rich and famous, you don't need your own yacht to enjoy SVG. In fact cheap ferries make exploring this archipelago nation independently a breeze and with so many islands to choose from, there's sure to be one that perfectly meets your needs.
And while it's famed for its islands and beaches, the country offers more than just a relax in a hammock. There are volcanoes to climb, refreshing waterfalls to explore and great hiking throughout.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout St Vincent & the Grenadines.
On the northern, uninhabited side of Mayreau you'll find Saltwhistle Bay, a double crescent of beautiful beaches split by a narrow palm-tree-fringed isthmus that seems to come right out of central casting for tropical ideals. The turquoise water laps both sides of the sandy strip, in some places only a few feet away.
Simply divine. Located just around the corner from Port Elizabeth, this is one of the loveliest stretches of sand on the island. It is backed by a wall of lush vegetation and the deep, calm waters are perfect for swimming.
Perched atop a large volcanic rock offshore from Villa, this eerie fort was constructed to defend the town of Calliaqua and affords fantastic 360-degree views of the southern shoreline. There are 225 steps in the spiral staircase that has been carved into the rock; take care as it can be slippery, with small stones often covering the walkway – bring footwear. At the top, 200ft above sea level, you'll find two batteries of cannon and a picnic area.
A tiny pure-sand island northwest of PSV with just a single thatch umbrella in the middle, Mopion is the place of tropical castaway fantasies. Measuring about 20-meters by 8, the island changes form continually depending on the currents and winds. Surrounded by reefs, the shallow waters here are full of fish. There's not a single tree and the brilliant white sand reflects the sun – bring plenty of sunscreen and a snorkel.
A favorite hangout among Union Island locals and a popular anchorage for yachties in the know, Chatham Bay is a lovely thin crescent of white sand backed by steep, forest-covered hills on the western side of the island. The calm turquoise waters are perfect for snorkeling. On the edge you'll find a couple of simple bars and a restaurant.
Tucked away at the end of a rough road at the top of the valley above Mesopotamia – the SVG version – St Vincent's other botanical gardens are in many ways superior to its more famous Kingstown counterparts. Surrounded by craggy mountains and rolling hills, the setting is spectacular and the gardens themselves are a deliciously lush and colorful affair awash with birdsong.
One of the best beaches on the island, Big Sand on Richmond Bay is around half a mile north of Clifton. It has plenty of white sand and brilliant blue waters, with forest-covered mountains as a backdrop. It's an easy walk from town.
Just north of the city and standing proudly atop a 660ft-high ridge, Fort Charlotte (1806) offers commanding views of both town and the Grenadines to the south. It was once a fearsome military post with dozens of cannon, a few of which remain. There are usually a couple of local guides hanging around who will show you around for EC$10 each. It's well worth contracting their services.
On the road to Mesopotamia there is an excellent lookout where you peer down into the impossibly green valley, known as the breadbasket of San Vincent. It's a lush landscape dotted with small farms and palm trees. On the other side of the road the view is equally impressive across to Bequia, Mustique and Garifuna Rock, which was the first prison of the Black Caribs before they were expelled to Honduras.