St Vincent and the Grenadines guide
St Vincent and the Grenadines at a glance
ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES are a string of stunning cays and a larger rainforested island set in the south-eastern Caribbean. Access is not that easy (mainly via Barbados or other Windward Islands), but once you arrive there is excellent sailing and the inter-island travel, mainly by ferry, is easy and fun. Lively islanders, English-speaking, with a delightful, slow, easy island life. Classic Caribbean beaches, some isolated coves of white sand and tiny sandy cays, in the Grenadines - St Vincent itself has mainly dark volcanic sand, with some very attractive jungly coves. Much of the tourism is geared to sailing, but land accommodation ranges from private island resorts and the most luxurious villas in the region to small inns and guest houses (there is very little mid-range package tourism). Some cruise tourism with good day trips, also good scuba, pretty stone buildings in Kingstown the capital, gardens, nature and hiking on St Vincent.
Read about St Vincent and the Grenadines History, Population and Politics in Island Essentials.
The Definitive St Vincent and the Grenadines Island Guide gives you independent reviews, listings, and information from top travel journalists and Caribbean specialists.
- Best for:
- Day sails and yacht charters, private island hotels, scuba diving
- What for:
- Beach, Hiking, Sailing & Regattas, Yacht charters, Sailing cruises
- Not for:
- Naturist. Cricket
- How to get there:
- Via Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia, Puerto Rico, Martinique
- Top tip:
- Try island hopping by air, ferry or yacht charter. Combine with time on Barbados, St Lucia or Grenada
St Vincent and the Grenadines in depth
About ST VINCENT & THE GRENADINES...
St Vincent and the Grenadines lie like precious stones sprinkled on a baize of ocean blue. In the north, St Vincent, massive and mantled with rainforest, rises like a cut emerald. Scattered to its south are the green and mid-brown gems of the Grenadines, tear-drops of topaz and tiger’s eyes sparkling in the sun. They are some of the most attractive islands in the whole region.
And they are precious beyond their physical beauty too. While so many islands nearby have been developing madly over the past few decades, St Vincent and the Grenadines remain relatively undeveloped. They have a feeling of natural Caribbean life that is often lost elsewhere – unsophisticated, small island charm.
The invasion of large hotels, and the overlay of concrete that comes with it, has not really taken hold here. For all the plans, and there have been a few, there is still only one hotel of any size in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Pockets of sophistication do exist – after all, Mustique, world famous as the retreat of the super-rich, is one of the Grenadines – but they tend to be thoroughly low key in the best old Caribbean tradition.
So it is the natural, small island charm of the islands that make St Vincent and particularly the Grenadines so special. And the way to get the best of them is through island-hopping, by ferry or by yacht.
St Vincent is unlike its companions the Grenadines. It is one of the vast volcanic Windward Islands that stand in a north-south line, barring the water-laden Atlantic winds which release their moisture as rain. As a result the island is immensely fertile, so lush that you could almost expect a pencil to take root.
As far as the visitor is concerned, the island is less developed than most in the area for tourism, which you will only really see in the south of the island, between the capital Kingstown and the Blue Lagoon in the south-eastern corner. Beyond this area, the islanders live a fairly simple existence, mainly involved in agriculture. In the inland valleys the locals grow ground provisions and fruits that are exported to Grenadines and Barbados and even as far afield as the Virgin Islands.
St Vincent is hardly a typical Caribbean tourist destination. It has few classic palm-backed, white sand beaches and just a few hotels. But it is immensely beautiful and it has a charming life which is good to witness, particularly as a foil to a trip through the smaller, gentler Grenadines, for which it is an excellent starting point.
Bequia is a very special island. It may be just five miles by two in size (actually the largest of the Grenadines), but it has exceptional charm and an unexpected amount to offer. Its diminutive town, Port Elizabeth, has one of the prettiest and most atmospheric waterfronts in the whole Caribbean – there is a small, active centre where the ferries put in and a line of bars and restaurants that stretch along a shoreside walkway under palms. In season the bars can be lively, with sailors from the yachts at anchor in the bay, but there is an almost supernatural charm about the place, which makes it lovely to visit at any time of the year. Elsewhere the island has plenty to recommend it too. There are a handful of good restaurants in excellent settings, some lovely remote beaches and beach bars and a strong local life too. It is only now beginning to see development, primarily in villas, but with some hotels too.
Famous as the bolthole of celebrities and the super-rich, who build their villas here, Mustique is an enclave of around 130 private villas (some 70 of which are for rent) with one hotel, a guest house (stylish and very expensive nonetheless), a bar and a few shops.
A relatively large island, half of which was completely undeveloped until recently, Canouan divides neatly into two areas, with a local community in the south and the Canouan Resort and The Grenadines Estate villas in the north. Now beginning to be upbeat.
The doziest of them all, just a few square miles of scrub and a tiny local community of 300. Lovely beaches, one secluded hotel and a guest house.
Union Island is the launch point for the southern Grenadines, including the Tobago Cays, because of its airstrip and because it is the terminus of the inter-island ferry. Clifton has shops and bars, but beyond here the island has a strong local character. There is a handful of places to stay.
The Tobago Cays
A gathering of five tiny, heart-breakingly pretty spits of land, surrounded by reefs. Very popular with yachtsmen and with day-sailors, who come on excursions from as far afield as Barbados. Includes Petit Tabac, on which Johnny Depp was marooned as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.
A 135 acre outcrop just a short ride east across the shallow sea from Union Island. Utter seclusion on a private island. A hotel and a handful of villas and some pretty beaches are all that there is.
Petit St Vincent
Petit St Vincent is the most southerly of St Vincent’s Grenadines and it lies so close to Petite Martinique (attached to Grenada) that you can see the people walking around. Petit St Vincent is just 113 acres in size and is set in shallow sea so it is rimmed with pretty white-sand beaches. The island is devoted to a single hotel, PSV as it is known to cognoscenti, which specialises in offering an extremely well heeled clientele extreme privacy. If you put up the red flag outside your cottage, you simply will not be disturbed (well, the manager admitted to breaking the rule on one occasion, for a general on the outbreak of the Gulf War).
This Definitive St Vincent & the Grenadines Guide is maintained by a team of top travel writers and our own in-house team of Caribbean specialists and includes independent reviews about SVG, its accommodation, things to do, places to see, how to get there and links to help your St Vincent and the Grenadines travel plans.
Picture editor, Holly Cocker. Senior Picture Editor, Alexander Gray.
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St Vincent and the Grenadines weather
Looking for inspiration?
- Hike up St Vincent's 4000ft volcano, La Soufriere
- Take the Barracuda Express to the pretty harbour of Port Elizabeth, Bequia, for a day's sightseeing
- Enjoy a day sail and snorkelling trip to the stunning Tobago Cays
- Join in the carnival atmosphere and jump-up during Vincy Mas
- Rub shoulders with the rich and famous on Mustique