Discover St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Travel + Leisure - 2021 Best Caribbean Island
This archipelago of 32 islands took the No. 1 spot this year. "St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a unique old-school Caribbean vibe, very low-key," said one of our readers. "Lots to do as far as hiking, sailing, snorkeling/diving, and day trips to other islands." Of the nine inhabited islands, one of our readers insisted that "Petit St. Vincent is heaven on Earth." St. Vincent, the largest island, is home to sanctuaries like Little Palm Resort. A rejuvenating mix of outdoor pursuits and laid-back luxury can also be found on the smaller islands, including Canouan — where the Mandarin Oriental adds some Italian flavor to the Antilles
The quiet island of St. Vincent is often overlooked as a Caribbean hotspot. Vincentians are more engaged in fishing and farming than in the tourist trade. The lush, mountainous terrain is marked by rivers, rapids, and waterfalls, skirted by black sand beaches.
Where is St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is situated in the Eastern Caribbean at the southern end of the Windward Islands chain. It is an archipelago of 32 islands, St. Vincent being the largest, with the smaller islands collectively known as "the Grenadines." Neighboring islands include St. Lucia twenty-one miles to the North, Grenada twenty-eight miles to the South, and Barbados one hundred miles to the East.
The entire country of islands covers approximately 150 square miles, and has a total population of a110,000. The capital, Kingstown, has a population of 25,000.
With its proximity to the equator, the climate is tropical and fairly consistent with a year round average temperature of 27° C (80° F) and annual rainfall of 2100 mm (80 inches). The official language is English and the currency used is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$).
The Carib Indians inhabited St. Vincent before the Europeans arrived, and the island still sports a sizable number of Carib artifacts. Explored by Columbus in 1498, and alternately claimed by Britain and France, St. Vincent became a British colony by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. In 1773, the island was divided between the Caribs and the British, but conflicts between the groups persisted. In 1776, the Caribs revolted and were subdued. Thereafter the British deported most of them to islands in the Gulf of Honduras. Sugarcane cultivation brought African slaves and, later, Portuguese and East Indian laborers.
The islands belonged to the West Indies Federation from 1958 until its dissolution in 1962, won home rule in 1969 as part of the West Indies Associated States, and achieved full independence in 1979.
The country gained independence from Britain on October 27, 1979, instituted a Parliamentary Democracy on the Westminister model, and has remained a part of the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and is represented by the Governor General, Sir Frederick Ballantyne. The Prime Minister is Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, whose party, the Unity Labour Party, was elected to office in March 2001. The legal system is based on English common law.
Visit the official government site for more information.
Historical & Cultural Sights
A bustling, vibrant market carrying a superb selection of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish. Particularly well stocked on Fridays and Saturdays. Local arts and crafts are frequently displayed in the courtyard.
The Botanical Gardens
The Leeward (west) coast of St. Vincent leads to many interesting sights. A visit to the Botanical Gardens, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, is a favorite stop for both visitors and locals. Here, rare and exotic flowers, plants and trees abound. The garden was founded in 1762 as a commercial breeding ground for plants brought from other parts of the world. St. Vincent was Captain Bligh’s original destination when the mutiny on HMS Bounty delayed his first scheduled arrival. He eventually completed a second voyage, and a descendant of one of his original breadfruit trees thrives in today’s garden. There is also an aviary for a close-up view of the majestically colored national bird, the St. Vincent parrot (Amazona Guildingii). Guides are available and will happily escort you on a short, half-hour tour of the grounds for US$2 a person, longer tours are available for US$3 a person.
On Berkshire Hill, just west of town, and over 600 feet above the bay, is Fort Charlotte. Named after King George III’s wife, the fortification was constructed in 1806. In its heyday, it supported 600 troops and 34 guns. Some of the old barracks now house a museum with the colorful history of the Black Caribs depicted on its walls.
St. George’s Anglican Cathedral
Built in the early 1800s in the Georgian architectural style it features spectacular stained-glass windows, one of which was originally commissioned by Queen Victoria to hang in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Eventually the window found its way to Kingstown as a gift to the bishop.
St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral
Built in 1823, and rebuilt most recently in the 1930s by a Flemish monk, the cathedral displays an amazing mixture of styles, including Moorish, Romanesque, and Georgian, all fashioned out of dark volcanic-sand bricks.
At the World Travel Awards it was named ‘The World’s Leading Private Island’. Caribbean Travel & Life ranks it amongst the Caribbean’s ‘most romantic resorts’. Travel & Leisure says it is ‘one of the best places to stay in the world’. Palm Island is a very special place.
It lies on its own 135-acre island in The Grenadines, that chain of exclusive little islands that runs between St. Vincent in the north and Grenada in the south. It is reached via a 45-minute flight from Barbados to neighboring Union Island, followed by an 8-minute ride by private launch. Great care has been taken to ensure the resort blends in with these untouched natural surroundings. The five white sand beaches are complemented by just 37 guest rooms that are dwarfed by the coconut palms and charmingly styled with their island-setting in mind. Activities are low-key and generally focused upon the sand and the sea, while dining is always a breeze-cooled beachfront affair, the delicious Euro-Caribbean cuisine taking full advantage of freshly-caught seafood and locally-grown vegetables.
Yet Palm Island is not just a resort. It’s a place where guests slow down, recharge their batteries and gradually rediscover the wonders of nature. Panoramic walking trails show off indigenous iguanas and interesting bird life. Visiting yachts and traditional beach homes contribute a sense of authentic island life. And boat trips to the world-famous Tobago Cays ensure visitors leave with a great ‘sense of place’.
The island of Mustique is owned by the Mustique Company, which in turn is owned by the island's home owners. The island has approximately 90 private villas, many of which are available for weekly rentals through the Mustique Company.
There are also two privately-owned hotels on the island (The Cotton House and Firefly). Because of its luxury and isolation, Mustique has over the years attracted a number of the rich and famous: Princess Margaret, Mick Jagger, Bill Gates, Shania Twain, Kate Moss, Felix Dennis, James V. Kimsey, David Bowie, Tommy Hilfiger, Robert Worcester, and Jonathan Marks. Those with homes on the island can sometimes be seen at Basil's Beach Bar, consistently ranked in Travel and Leisure's Top Caribbean Beach Bars.
The island covers 1,400 acres (5.7 km² or 2.2 sq. miles) and it has several coral reefs. The land fauna includes tortoises, herons and many other species. The year-round population of about 500 live in the villages of Lovell, Britannia Bay and Dover
Lying just nine miles to the south of St. Vincent, Bequia is the largest of the Grenadine islands - a compact seven square miles. Her history has been deeply entwined with the sea for generations. The age-old traditions of boat-building, fishing and whaling are still evident today. The main port of entry is Port Elizabeth in Admiralty Bay - a picturesque bay if ever there was one and a popular anchorage with yachtsmen from all over the globe. It is considered one of the best harbors in the Caribbean because of its deep "U" shape, calm, clear water and ample depth.