11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions of St Vincent and the Grenadines
A haven for boaters, St Vincent and the Grenadines flaunt some of the most gorgeous scenery in the Caribbean. This string of 36 emerald volcanic islands stretches south towards Grenada, with plenty of white-sand beaches and palm-lined bays where mega yachts bob beside sailboats. Private islands abound here, many with posh resorts. Diving is excellent, and coral reefs fringe many of the beaches offering superb snorkeling a short splash from shore. Discerning island lovers drift to these peaceful and unpretentious islands for a dose of classic Caribbean scenery free from the cruise ship crowds found in busier ports.
At the northern end of the archipelago, the island of St Vincent, is home to the capital of Kingstown with cobbled streets and colonial buildings, while Union Island is the southern gateway to the Grenadines. Scattered like jewels in the surrounding seas are the green islets of Bequia, Mustique, Mayreau, Canouan, Union Island, Palm Island, and Petit St Vincent where casual elegance recalls the Old Caribbean. Divers, snorkelers, boaters, and beachcombers alike, love the picture-perfect Tobago Cays, part of a marine park ringed with coral reefs.
The second largest of the Grenadines, charming Bequia is a popular yachting destination with a rich whaling history. Lush hillsides dotted with bougainvillea tumble to beaches and boat-filled bays. The island is also known for being safe and friendly. Port Elizabeth on Admiralty Bay is the main commercial center on Bequia. A walkway runs along the waterfront on the south side of town passing restaurants and stores. At the south end of Port Elizabeth, a trail leads over a small rise to pretty Princess Margaret Beach. Separated from this beach by a rocky outcrop, Lower Bay is another stretch of golden sand with great snorkeling.
2 Tobago Cays
In the southern Grenadines, the Tobago Cays encompass five small, uninhabited islands that are now the key feature of the Tobago Cays Marine Park. Protected by reefs, the beaches offer calm clear waters for swimming and snorkeling, while the surrounding coral gardens are rich in marine life. Snorkelers and divers spot sea turtles as well as stingrays, barracuda, and shoals of reef fish. Many yachters anchor here to frolic in the crystal clear waters and bask on the beaches.
3 Petit St Vincent
Petit St Vincent feeds tropical island fantasies. Also known as PSV, this privately owned island is home to the boutique Petit St Vincent Resort, where guests are ensconced in secluded ocean-view villas sprinkled around the hillsides and bays. To preserve the island's tranquility, guests will find no phones or televisions. Instead, colored flags convey messages to the attentive staff. The resort encompasses the entire island and belongs to the portfolio of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
4 Kingstown, St Vincent
Kingstown is the capital and main commercial center of St Vincent and the Grenadines with cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, and a few tourist attractions. The town is known for its churches. St George's Anglican Cathedral, an 1820 Georgian-style structure, is adorned with stained glass windows, while the 1823 St Mary's Catholic Cathedral features Gothic spires and Romanesque columns and arches.
Other popular sightseeing attractions are the St Vincent Botanical Gardens, the oldest in the West Indies, and the St Vincent National Museum, on the same grounds. High on a ridge north of the city, Fort Charlotte offers beautiful views over Kingstown and the surrounding islands. Many visitors head to the popular resort on privately owned Young Island, located about 200 m offshore from Villa Beach.
5 St Vincent Botanical Gardens
Established in 1765, the delightful St Vincent Botanical Gardens are the oldest in the West Indies. The gardens encompass 20 acres of indigenous and exotic tropical plants and trees, such as hibiscus, cinnamon, nutmeg, mahogany, palms, and a breadfruit tree reputedly grown from a seedling brought to the island by Captain Bligh. Bird lovers will enjoy the aviary of St Vincent parrots. Also on the grounds, the St Vincent National Museum displays pre-Columbian Indian, Arawak, and Carib artifacts, stone carvings, and clay works.
Kingstown, St Vincent
6 Leeward Highway
Carving along cliff tops and scenic coastal stretches, Leeward Highway is a 40 km road running from Kingstown to Richmond Beach along St Vincent's sheltered west coast. The road passes by local villages, black sand beaches, coconut plantations, and some worthwhile tourist attractions. Along the way, Carib Rock features a carved face dating from AD 600. Many travelers also stop by Barrouallie, a small fishing village with a Carib stone altar and petroglyphs. The tradition of hunting pilot whales is still in practice here.
The route ends near the black sands of Richmond Beach, a popular swimming area. In the distance, visitors can see La Soufrière, an active volcano and the island's highest peak. From this stretch of coast, tours depart to the Falls of Baleine, an 18 m waterfall on the northwestern tip of St Vincent. Access to the falls is via boat or foot as there are no roads to this area.
About 40 km south of St Vincent, the small island of Canouan is known for its beautiful white sand beaches and excellent snorkeling. A barrier reef protects the Atlantic side of the island, and an exclusive resort stretches along the island's northern third with a hotel, private villas, restaurants, and a golf course. The Moorings yacht charter company operates a base on the island for sailing trips throughout the Grenadines.
Accessible only by boat, Mayreau is a tiny island of only 2.5 sq km with one of the Caribbean's prettiest bays. Salt Whistle Bay, a popular spot for yachts, offers an idyllic palm-fringed arc of white sand beach with the tranquil Salt Whistle Bay Club resort tucked back amid the coconut palms. The island's only road leads uphill from the beach to a small village with spectacular views of the ocean and the Tobago Cays. Most visitors arrive at the dock on Saline Bay.
Exclusive Mustique is a privately owned island and a playground of celebrities, rock stars, and the uber-rich. With its own airport and general store, this 5 km-long island is home to the luxury Cotton House hotel, the Firefly Hotel, and many private villas. Coral reefs beckon just offshore, and white sand beaches ring the island providing excellent opportunities for swimming and snorkeling. Macaroni Beach is a favorite.
10 Palm Island
Palm Island is a little patch of paradise. Home to the Palm Island Resort and a sprinkling of holiday villas, this beautiful island is named for the abundant coconut palms planted by the resort's former owners. Five white sand beaches fringe the coast with excellent snorkeling just offshore in translucent turquoise water. The island has a small airport and is also only a short boat ride from Union Island.
11 Union Island
Capped by dramatic volcanic peaks, Union Island is the southern port of entry for St Vincent and the Grenadines and a gateway for tours to the nearby islands. The island has two main villages, Ashton and Clifton. Ashton is the launching point for hikes into the hills, while Clifton is home to most of the tourist facilities with shops, restaurants, a marina, and airport. The island's two best beaches lie on the north coast at Richmond Bay and Belmont Bay.