Discover why St. Vincent and the Grenadines is “the Caribbean you’re looking for”
As the sun sets over Petit St. Vincent, a private island resort on the southern tip of the Grenadines, it’s time to place a breakfast order for the following morning. Rather than picking up the phone to dial room service, the process is a bit different here.
First, I take a menu form from my bedroom, fill it out and place the sheet of paper in the bamboo mailbox slot at the end of the driveway to my secluded villa. Then, to signal the attention of the staff who circle the 115-acre island, I raise up the yellow flag — the red one signifies do not disturb – before heading back inside.
The next day at exactly the requested time, one of the resort’s butlers rings the bell outside of my villa and sets up the Eggs Benedict feast on the private cliffside balcony, which comes complete with a hammock, stocked mini bar and a jar of homemade cookies.
From the purposeful lack of TVs in many hotel rooms across the destination to a small blue food stall with the words Bequia Pizza Hut hand painted across the front, the charm of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is this authentic old world Caribbean vibe. Described as a throwback to the Caribbean before mass tourism, the destination made up of 32 islands and cays is the antithesis to other countries pushing to grow year-over-year visitor arrivals year over year over year.
“Our tagline is the Caribbean you’re looking for… We like to think of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the Caribbean that’s completely untouched, unspoiled, with character and charm,” says Glenn Beache, CEO of the St. Vincent and The Grenadines Tourism Authority. “We’re not a mass tourism destination nor do we want to be. We want to maintain what makes us special.”
During an island hopping adventure taking in some of the highlights of the area like St. Vincent, Union Island, Bequia, Canouan and the Tobago Cays, it’s a sentiment that’s echoed frequently by local tourism professionals and hotel staff alike.
“We like to keep it hidden. It’s a place we like to keep secret. We don’t talk about it too much. I would never want us to be a mass tourism destination,” explains Batu Erem, the general manager for Soho Beach House Canouan, which opened in 2021. “What we like to tailor, what we like to share is that this is your rustic, rugged Robin Crusoe-y type of experience that you’re not going to get in the Northern Leeward islands but it still exists here. It’s casual wellness. This is the place that you come to unplug, this is the place where you come to rejuvenate. There’s no TV in the rooms. This is that little haven and that’s why we like to keep it a secret. It’s like being back in time in the old Caribbean, that’s what we try to preserve here.”
Soho Beach House Canouan is the only Caribbean outpost for Soho House, which typically operates on a membership-only basis. However this boutique 40-bedroom property on Grand Bay Beach is open to non-member bookings as well. One of the perks of a stay here is that guests get to keep the travel sized skincare products in each room.
Similarly, at the largest of the Grenadine islands, Bequia Beach Hotel’s general manager Elisabeth Alleyne says she’s often rejected when asking guests for an online review to spread the word about the hotel.
“I asked a guest to give us a TripAdvisor review and they said ‘no. I don’t want people to find out about it,’” she says. “We want customers to come here and see the genuine part, that it can be a little rustic, we need to keep that. I think it’s the way the whole country is built – that it’s still very genuine. Still very rustic. It’s more about the people than the flashy industry.”
The family-owned property is yet another that doesn’t have TVs in the room so that guests are focused on connecting with each other and the destination.
“Each island has its own charm, it’s a different vibe wherever you go,” sums up Marlon Joseph, hospitality officer, SVGTA. “But it’s all chill.”
Soak up the splendour of the Tobago Cays
One of the most majestic spots of the archipelago of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is The Tobago Cays, an ideal spot for yachties and snorkellers as it features coral reefs and multicoloured fish. The cays also make for great turtle spotting. Although the conservation area is uninhabited, several vendors set up shop to offer dishes including BBQ chicken, fresh fish and cocktails like rum punch. Tour operators like Wind and Sea offer day trips to The Tobago Cays for clients looking to spend the day enjoying the picturesque scenery.
Live the private island life
For the ultimate escape, three resorts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are located on private islands.
“We’ve turned the Kardashians away five times. We want to stay low key,” says Petit St. Vincent’s general manager Matt Semark. “We’re unpretentious luxury.”
Although the private island resort with 22 cottages is all about top-notch service, he explains that it does so in a discrete manner.
“The really cool thing about the Grenadines and St. Vincent is that we’re all very different in style. We all offer slightly different experiences,” Semark notes. “For us it’s more about privacy, seclusion, space and hiding away. It’s a very personalized experience. We have a very long average length of stay and we have a 63% return rate annually.”
Another option is Palm Island Resort & Spa, an all inclusive property situated on a 135-acre private island. The newest addition to the property is the 4,000 sq. ft. Seahorse Villa, which sleeps up to four people. The resort has highly-Instagrammable photo spots set up like water swings and a boat-shaped plunge pool, where guests can also enjoy private picnics.
Finally, just off the shore of the main island of St. Vincent, is Young Island Resort, accessible via a 24-hour on demand boat ride. Set on 13-acres, the property features 29 beach and hillside cottages. One of the best views comes from Villa 26, which overlooks Fort Duvernette. All cottages are unique, and many come with their own plunge pools. One of the stand out features of the resort is its bread offering. At dinner, servers arrive with a tray of six bread choices to take requests for freshly cut pieces of cinnamon, coconut or banana bread. A must-try for breakfast is the creole french toast on cinnamon bread. After pouring some of the destination’s strong Sunset Rum over it, a server will light the coconut shavings on fire before smothering it in syrup to extinguish the flames.
Relax on Mopion Island
With one thatched umbrella on an idyllic white sand bar, Mopion Island looks like paradise on earth or a Photoshopped image that has come to life. It’s easy to spend an afternoon hanging out and swimming in the clear waters on an excursion from nearby Petit St. Vincent, which provides a picnic lunch option plus transfers from the resort. This romantic spot is ideal for honeymooners or those looking to pop the question — or simply anyone looking to take pictures that will make those back home envious.
Chase waterfalls at Dark View Falls
This two level cascading waterfall is a must on the main island of St. Vincent. If there’s a cruise ship in port, we recommend arriving early to have the falls to yourselves. Be sure to pack a swimsuit as the pool of water under the upper waterfalls makes for a refreshing spot to take a swim. The windy road to Dark View Falls also provides an inside look at island life as it passes through fishing villages and unobstructed views of La Soufrière volcano. Villages along the route are marked by colourful hand painted signs depicting what each local region is known for.
Walk in the footsteps of the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean
A popular spot for Pirates of the Caribbean fans, Wallilabou Bay was a key filming location for the movie franchise featuring stars like Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Pirate-themed memorabilia line the shores overlooking the turquoise waters. “It was really great for tourism,” says Marlon Joseph, hospitality officer, SVGTA.
Getting there: Seasonal Air Canada non-stop flights to St. Vincent and the Grenadines will resume on Oct. 30 with three times weekly service on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Four weekly flights will start on Dec. 11 with Tuesdays added to the schedule until the end of the winter season.
Getting around: For agents looking to arrange island tours on St. Vincent, including cruise ship visits, connect with tour operator Quency Lewis of Foreign Tours SVG at [email protected]. For inter-island connectivity there are frequent ferries as well as many inter-island flight options.