Traveling to Montserrat is a special experience. It is one of the few Caribbean islands that have not been discovered by mass tourism. A visit here would not be complete without exploring the Soufrière Hills volcano, but Montserrat is also blessed with lovely beaches and interesting hikes and dive sites.
Montserrat Basic Info
Location: In the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Puerto Rico
Size: 39 square miles. See Map
Capital: Plymouth, although volcanic activity has forced the relocation of government offices to Brades
Religions: Anglican, Methodist and Roman Catholic
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar, which is fixed to the U.S. dollar
Telephone Area Code: 664
Tipping: 10 to 15 percent
Weather: Average temperatures range from 76 to 86 degrees. Hurricane season is June to November
Montserrat Activities and Attractions
Montserrat has beaches, diving, hiking and shopping, but what is truly fascinating about this island is the unique opportunity to see an active volcano. Since the Soufrière Hills volcano began erupting in July 1995, the southern part of the island has been more or less off limits. Plymouth, Montserrat’s capital, was abandoned in 1997 after being buried deep in ash and volcanic debris. This modern-day Pompeii can be viewed from the water on a boat tour or from Richmond Hill. Contact the Green Monkey Inn & Dive Shop to arrange a tour.
Almost everyone has seen white-sand beaches, but there is something special about black- and grey-sand beaches. Thanks to its volcanic activity, Montserrat has been blessed with some of each. You’ll need a boat to get to Rendezvous Beach, Montserrat’s only white-sand beach, but you may have it all to yourself once you’ve arrived. Woodlands Beach boasts beautiful black sand, while Little Bay Beach is good for swimming and has access to some beach bars and restaurants. Lime Kiln Beach is also secluded and has great snorkeling.
Montserrat Hotels and Resorts
The accommodations on Montserrat are quite limited. The Tropical Mansion Suites is close to both the airport and Little Bay Beach and it has a pool. Olvesrton House belongs to Beatles producer George Martin. Otherwise, a great option is to rent a villa. Montserrat has a large number of reasonably priced rental properties available. Most include maid service and amenities such as swimming pools, washer/dryers, wet bars and cable TVs.
Montserrat Restaurants and Cuisine
While you’re on Montserrat, you may want to try national specialties like frog legs, known as mountain chicken, or goat water, a stew made with goat meat. The Tropical Mansion Suites has a restaurant that serves Italian-Caribbean dishes, or you can try casual Jumping Jack's Beach Bar and Restaurant, which serves freshly caught fish.
Montserrat Culture and History
Originally inhabited by Arawak and Carib Indians, Montserrat was discovered by Columbus in 1493 and settled by English and Irish colonists in 1632. African slaves arrived 30 years later. The British and French fought for control until Montserrat was confirmed as a British possession in 1783. Much of the southern part of Montserrat was devastated and two-thirds of the population fled abroad when the Soufriere Hills volcano began to erupt in July of 1995. The volcano is still quite active.
Montserrat Events and Festivals
Montserrat celebrates the luck of the Irish for a full week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. Events include church services, concerts, performances, a special dinner and more. Festival, Montserrat’s version of Carnival, is another special time when loved ones who have moved away from the island reunite with their families and enjoy festivities like parades, street dancing, known as jump-ups, and calypso competitions. It runs from mid-December until the new year.
A great way to get to know the locals on Montserrat is to participate in a rum shop tour in which you’ll be driven to a number of informal roadside bars, called rum shops, where you can hang out, or “lime,” and have a drink. If you’d prefer to head out on your own, ask at your hotel for some specific recommendations. Some popular choices include Treasure Spot Bar and Gary Moore’s Wide Awake Bar.