While St. Vincent may be the largest of the islands in the Grenadines, it has often been overshadowed by its smaller sister islands of Bequia, Mustique, and Canouan when it comes to tourism. However, with an increase in resorts and a larger international airport on the island, St. Vincent is becoming a more popular tourist destination. Thanks to its lush, natural beauty and long history, St. Vincent has plenty to see and do.
The western coast of St. Vincent is home to some spectacular waterfalls that provide an excellent way for visitors to cool off in the tropical heat or grab a quick photo of the lush scenery surrounding them. Unfortunately, most of these falls aren't easily accessible, so these day trips are for adventurous types.
To get to Dark View Falls, 24 miles (38 kilometers) from Kingstown, you'll need to cross a rope bridge suspended over a river. Once at the falls, you can wade into a relatively placid pool and stick your head under the cool, rushing water that plunges 104 feet (32 meters) from the lower stage of the falls into the pool.
About 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the cruise ship terminal in Kingstown, visitors will find a site on the shoreline so secluded that it can only be reached by boat. The Falls of Baleine drop 60 feet (18 meters) into a pool that's perfect for a swim. A boardwalk and moorings are the only real signs of any human presence here. However, access at the Falls of Baliene is touch-and-go. Occasionally, boats are prohibited from mooring here, so check with your hotel or boating guide before you set out for this hidden spot. Avoiding the falls during heavy rain is advised, as the paths can be slippery.
Dive and Snorkel Around Beautiful Reefs and Wrecks
Many Caribbean islands boast unspoiled beauty, but this is more true on St. Vincent than most other destinations. A dive tour along the leeward coast reveals numerous bays and plenty of private spots like Petit Byahaut, where you can anchor right offshore and snorkel and scuba over still-healthy reefs and corals.
Indigo Dive, located at the Buccament Bay Resort, or Dive St. Vincent will introduce you to many of the best dive sites on the island, including Anchor Reef and Turtle Bay. The Bat Cave, close to Buccament Bay, is a challenging treat that provides guests with the opportunity to snorkel through a narrow, semisubmerged passage with thousands of bats squeaking and flapping overhead. More experienced divers can explore three neighboring sunken ships known as the Capital Wrecks.
The rollicking, Johnny Depp-led adventures in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies begin when Captain Jack Sparrow avoids execution at the hands of the British Navy and later escapes on a stolen warship. Those iconic scenes in the first Pirates movie were all shot in St. Vincent's Wallilabou Bay. A quiet yachting anchorage on the western shore that is home to a modest waterfall popular with both boaters and tourists alike, Wallilabou Bay is accessible via road or boat. But arrival by sea is far more memorable. Once there, you'll be free to walk around and check out a small bar and restaurant in La Rochelle, which has some props and other movie memorabilia on display.
Some of the movie sets remain standing along the shore, although they have been slowly deteriorating since the movie wrapped production in 2003. Still, fans of the movie will recognize the spot where a chase along the docks took place as well as the offshore rock where the bodies of less-fortunate buccaneers were displayed as a warning to other pirates at the beginning of the movie.
Located in Kingstown, St. Vincent's Botanical Gardens date back to 1765 when they were established by British Governor General Robert Melville. Among the native and imported plants on display are breadfruit brought to the island from Tahiti in 1793 by Captain William Bligh of the H.M.S. Bounty. A visit to the gardens includes the Nicholas Wildlife Aviary Complex, dedicated in part to protecting the colorful St. Vincent Parrot. Travelers can explore the 20 acres (8.1 hectares) of gardens nearly every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., or you can hire a guide for a small fee. Confirm schedules and prices with the gardens.
Hike up a Dormant Volcano
The still-smoldering La Soufriere volcano rises 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) above the sea on the north end of St. Vincent. A relatively strenuous day hike will take you through banana plantations and lush rainforest and along volcanic ridgelines to the summit, the highest point on the island. Here, you'll be able to take a rope-guided walk down into the caldera (crate) of the volcano, where you can see the lava dome up close.
There are several trails to the top of the mountain, but the most popular 2-mile (3-kilometer) route starts in Rabacca on the windward side of the island. From the top, you can even follow a trail back down to Richmond on the western coast, meaning you can walk from one side of St. Vincent to the other with a visit to an active volcano in the middle of your adventure. However, non-residents are required to be accompanied by an approved local agent, so check in with your hotel for options on getting to the summit.
Perhaps your best opportunity to spot a St. Vincent Parrot in the wild, or the whistling warbler, another rare native bird, is to hike the well-marked, 2-mile (3 kilometers) Vermont Nature Trail, which starts near the top of the Buccament Valley and cuts through a 10,000-acre (4,047-hectare) tropical rainforest reserve. The main trail leads to a parrot observation lookout and covers about 1.75 miles (2.82 kilometers), while another hugs the Buccament River and runs for about three-quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometers). Walking the entire trail takes anywhere from one and a half to two hours to complete, depending on how long you stop to enjoy the views.
A day trip sailing around the Grenadines is a must-do for anyone visiting St. Vincent. The yacht haven and boating center of Bequia is within easy reach of the main island. In addition, the uninhabited Tobago Cays are an unforgettable destination for diving, sunning on Petit Tabac, or hiking Petit Bateau, James Bay, or Petit Rameau in search of local wildlife such as seabirds, turtles, and iguanas, along with innumerable gorgeous views. You can rub elbows with royalty and rock stars on Mustique or live like a king for a day at private island resorts like Petit St. Vincent or Palm Island.
Fort Charlotte sits 600 feet (183 meters) above the sea and towers over the city of Kingstown. Completed in 1806 and named for Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, the fort was built to protect St. Vincent from Britain's main colonial rivals, the French, as well as hostile Carib natives. Despite its lofty locale, however, the fort was mainly designed to defend against land attacks.
Once home to a garrison of 600 men and 34 cannons and other artillery pieces, Fort Charlotte is now a popular tourist destination for panoramic views of the city. You can view the surviving fortifications, see paintings depicting the history of the Black Carib native people, tour a small museum, and of course linger over the fabulous views.
St. Vincent's annual Carnival celebration, Vincy Mas, is held each year around the beginning of July and has become the biggest summer party in the Caribbean. If you've missed out on Trinidad's famous Lenten Carnival, you'll get much of the same kind of experience during Vincy Mas, which includes soca and calypso competitions, a wild j'ouvert street celebration, crowning of Carnival royalty and Miss SVG, and a huge Mardi Gras parade with elaborate costumes, dancing, and partying long into the night.