The biggest island in the Grenadines, St. Vincent, has often been overshadowed by her smaller sisters with the more famous names -- Bequia, Mustique, and Canouan, to name a few. But with new resorts and a bigger airport coming soon, St. Vincent is finally getting on the tourist map of the Caribbean. With its lush natural beauty and long history, there's plenty to see and do once you arrive!
Visit a Waterfall
AddressSt Vincent and the Grenadines
The west (leeward) coast of St. Vincent boasts several spectacular waterfalls that are a great day-trip destination providing some lovely photo opportunities as well as an excellent way to cool off in the tropical heat. Trinity Falls are considered the most beautiful, although they drop just 40 feet in three steps. The falls are fed by the strong-running Wallilabou River, so swimming can be dangerous. The trailhead can only be accessed by four-wheel-drive vehicles and a half-hour hike. (The Falls are intermittently closed to visitors, so check with your hotel activities desk before you go. Guides are highly recommended.)
Dark View Falls is, like Trinity Falls, in the general vicinity of the town of Richmond. You'll need a little sense of adventure to visit these falls, too: Access by road is easier than for Trinity, but reaching the falls requires you to cross a rope bridge suspended over the river. Once at the falls, however, you can wade into a relatively placid pool and stick your head under the cool water plunging 104 feet from the lower stage of the falls.
The Falls of Baleine are located right on the shoreline in a site so secluded that they can only be reached by boat. The falls drop 60 feet into a pool that's perfect for a swim. A boardwalk and moorings are the only real signs of man's presence here. As with Trinity Falls, however, access at the Falls of Baliene is touch-and-go: last we heard, boats had been prohibited from mooring here. So it seems that your best bet for visiting a St. Vincent waterfall is Dark View Falls -- and that's not a bad thing, at all.
Dive and Snorkel Beautiful Reefs and Wrecks
Many Caribbean islands boast of their unspoiled beauty, but it's more true on St. Vincent than most. A dive tour along the leeward coast reveals bay after bay that on other islands would be built up with hotels. Here, they're secluded 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, located close to Buccament Bay, is a challenging treat -- 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 makes good his escape on a stolen warship. Those iconic scenes in the first POTC movie were all shot in St. Vincent's Wallilabout Bay, a quiet yachting anchorage on the leeward shore that is home to a small bar/restaurant and a modest waterfall that's popular with both boaters and locals.
Some of the movie sets remain standing along the shore, although they were not built to last and have been slowly deteriorating over the last decade. Still, there's enough left that fans of the movie will recognize the spots where a chase along the docks took place. And the offshore rock where the bodies of less-fortunate buccaneers were displayed as a warning to others is still highly recognizable.
You can visit Wallilabou Bay via road or boat, although the arrival by sea is far more memorable. You are free to walk around and grab a drink or a bite to eat at the restaurant, which has some props and other movie memorabilia on display. Definitely worth a short visit, especially if you are a fan of the movies.
Wander the Botanic Gardens
Located in Kingstown, St. Vincent's Botanic Gardens date back to 1765, when they were established by British Governor General Robert Melville, and among the native and imported plants on display are breadfruit brought to the island from Tahiti in 1793 by Capt. William Bligh of the H.M.S. Bounty. A visit to the gardens includes the Nicholas Wildlife Aviary, dedicated in part to protecting the St. Vincent Parrot. Visitors can explore the 20 acres of gardens for free each day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., or you can hire a guide for a small fee.
Hike La Soufriere, St. Vincent's Slumbering Volcano
AddressLa Soufrière, St Vincent and the Grenadines
The still-smoldering La Soufriere volcano rises 4,000 feet 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, where you'll see a distinctive volcanic caldera, or crater. A rope-guided walk leads down into the caldera if you want to see the lava dome up close.
There are several trails to the top of the mountain, with the most popular two-mile route starting in Rabacca on the windward side of the island; it's even possible to follow a trail to Richmond on the leeward coast, meaning you can walk from one side of St. Vincent to the other with a visit to an active volcano in the middle!
The La Soufriere trails are open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Non-residents are required to be accompanied by an approved local guide -- check with your hotel's activity desk for details.
Follow the Vermont Nature Trail
AddressVermont, St Vincent and the Grenadines
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, two-mile Vermont Nature Trail, which starts near the top of the Buccament Valley and cuts through a 10,000-acre tropical rainforest reserve. The main trail leads to a parrot observation lookout anf covers about 1.75 miles; another hugs the Buccament River and runs for about three-quarters of a mile. Figure on about 1.5 hours to hike the whole thing.
By the way, there's no connection between the trail and the New England state of the same name: "Vermont" simply means "green mountain" in French.
Sail the Grenadines
AddressTobago Cays, St Vincent and the Grenadines
A day trip (or more) to 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; the uninhabited Tobago Cays are an unforgettable destination for diving, sunning on Petit Tabac (another Pirates of the Caribbean shooting locale), or hiking Petit Bateau, James Bay, or Petit Rameau in search of local wildlife or 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.
Enjoy the Views from Fort Charlotte
Fort Charlotte dominates Kingstown and its water approaches from a ridge 600 feet above the sea. 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 cannon and other artillery pieces. Today, 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. Missed out on Trinidad's famous Lenten Carnival? Don't fret: You'll get much the same kind of experience during Vincy Mas, which includes soca and calypso competitions, a wild j'ouvert celebration, crowning of Carnival royalty and Miss SVG, and of course a huge Mardi Gras parade with elaborate costumes, dancing, and partying.