12 Reasons We Love St. Vincent and the Grenadines

While one nation, the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines couldn’t be more different—geologically, ecologically, historically, even culturally. What ties them together, however, is their unspoiled nature, breathtaking beauty, and laidback vibe.

On the ultra-exclusive island of Mustique, Basil’s Bar is a stargazer’s paradise—and not just at night. It’s a favorite of celebrities, meaning you never know just who will be seated at the next table. A series of roofs cover the open-air deck to shade diners from the hot sun and occasional shower as they enjoy tropical cocktails and freshly grilled lobster. Come for the dance party on Wednesday, the happy hour on Thursday, or the sunset jazz every Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Basil’s also hosts the Mustique Blues Festival at the end of January, with live music each night for two straight weeks.
You’ll likely do your sunbathing and swimming on the white-sand beaches of the Grenadines, but St. Vincent’s black-sand beaches are also quite stunning. In Biabou, for example, along the windward coast south of Georgetown, you can stare for hours at frothy ocean waves crashing onto the volcanic black sand. With luck, you’ll also catch a rainbow.
The waters surrounding Bequia beckon scuba divers with everything from brilliant sponges, colorful fish, and deep-water corals to shallow reefs, sheer walls, caverns, holes, and wrecks. While the area is home to 30 or so easily accessible diving sites, you should head to the designated marine park, which occupies seven miles along Bequia’s leeward coast. Family-run outfitter Dive Bequia (located on Belmont Walkway in Port Elizabeth) offers three dive trips to the park each day, along with instruction, certification, and rental gear. Divers must be at least 8 years old, but snorkelers of all ages are welcome as well.
A tiny, man-made island in Clifton Harbour built with discarded conch shells, Happy Island is really just a small bar where you can tie up for a while and have a drink, a meal, and a conversation with Janti Ramage, the island’s joyful builder, owner, and operator. Just be sure to call ahead, as Ramage keeps flexible hours.
Sailors place the Grenadines, with its 32 breathtakingly beautiful islands and islets, among the world’s best places for boating. For help getting out on the water, turn to Horizon Yacht Charters, which rents monohulls and catamarans (either bareboat or crewed) out of Blue Lagoon Marina on St. Vincent. Enjoy a multi-day or week-long sail around the Grenadines, or opt for the one-way charter and sail south through the Grenadines all the way to Grenada, where Horizon has another facility.
Locals consider La Soufrière—St. Vincent’s massive active volcano that last erupted in 1979—the “queen of climbs.” Approachable from either the leeward or windward coast, the hike to the 4,000-foot summit is a serious, all-day excursion. You’ll need stamina and sturdy shoes—and a knowledgeable guide from the National Parks Authority—to safely reach the top, but once there you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and sea. Keep your eyes peeled for a rare sighting of the St. Vincent parrot on the way back down.
Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth, St Vincent and the Grenadines
Boat-building as an industry has existed on Bequia as far back as the 1800s. At one point, the island was even known as the “boat-building capital of the West Indies,” having produced the largest wooden vessel in the region. While construction has slowed over time, it still occurs—albeit on a much smaller scale—at places like Sargeant Brothers Model Boat Shop, just up the road from the ferry landing in Port Elizabeth, where Benson Phillips and other craftsmen make and sell their models. Handcrafted using hand planes, chisels, and carving knives, their boats are incredibly detailed and realistic. Choose from whale boats, sailboats, power boats, and wooden schooners, or commission Phillips to build a custom model of your own yacht. The simplest models take about a week to make, but there are always a few boats available for immediate sale, ranging in price from around $250 all the way up to $7,000.
Bay Street
Generally speaking, shopping isn’t a big draw on St. Vincent, but if you’re searching for the perfect souvenir, you can’t do better than Nzimbu Browne’s famous banana art. Besides tourism, banana production is a driving force behind St. Vincent’s economy. By using the industry’s waste products—the banana leaves—Browne creates sustainable art with a strong sense of place. His works depict local scenes, brought to life with snippets of dried, multicolored leaves. If you’re not into art, he also makes goat-skin drums and tie-dye clothing. His studio is located on McKie’s Hill in Kingstown, but he often sets up shop in front of the Cobblestone Inn on Upper Bay Street.
If you were to picture the perfect Caribbean beach, it would probably look something like Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau. Here, clear, turquoise waters lap at 2.5 miles of sparkling white sand, while palm trees, seagrape plants, and flowering bushes provide shady spots for lounging. At one end, you can walk the few yards of land that separate the Caribbean and Atlantic sides of the island. The only catch is that you’ll need a boat to reach the beach, so rent your own or book a day sail to Mayreau.
Lodge Village - Green Hill Road
Around since 1765, the St. Vincent Botanical Gardens claims to be the oldest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Tour the gardens with an informative guide, who will point out all the native and exotic plants growing here, including a breadfruit tree descended from the one Captain Bligh brought to St. Vincent in 1793. In the aviary, you’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of the colorful St. Vincent parrot—the island’s national bird.
Known as the “Jewel in the Crown” of the Southern Grenadines, Tobago Cays Marine Park comprises five picture-perfect, uninhabited islands surrounded by a clear lagoon. Here, you’ll find sea turtle nesting sites and feeding areas, small systems of mangroves, and the most well-developed coral reef complexes in St. Vincent. Swim with the resident turtles, snorkel around the almost 2.5-mile-long Horseshoe Reef, or simply relax on a magnificent white-sand beach—each island has at least one.
It’s worth planning an entire trip around Vincy Mas, St. Vincent’s carnival celebration. The event begins in late June and lasts for 12 days, bringing with it costumes, parades, parties, food, competitions, the naming of a “calypso monarch” and “carnival king and queen,” and lots and lots of music, from steel pan to soca and calypso. The biggest parades—Monday morning’s J’Ouvert and Tuesday’s all-day Mardi Gras—take place on the last two days of the festival.
More From AFAR