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One of the main British Windward Islands, tourist are only just beginning to discover St. Vincent and her sisters, the Grenadines. Until recently, this chain of sleepy islands has been a well kept secret from most of the world.
Visitors choose St. Vincent for its lush beauty and The Grenadines for some of the best sailing waters in the Caribbean. Don't come for nightlife, grand cuisine, or spectacular beaches. For white-sand beaches, head to Kingstown on St. Vincent - most of the other beaches on the island are black sand - but the island still offers other attractions worth exploring.
Warm welcomes and British customs await you here, along with a distinct West Indian flair.
South of St. Vincent, the small chain of islands called The Grenadines extends for more than 40 miles, with romantic names such as Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, as well as Petite St. Vincent, Union and Palm Islands, and Mayreau. Some of which are so small and undeveloped, they are uninhabitable, but make wonderful outings for beachcombing and exploring.
The Grenadines collectively add up to just 30 square miles. These small specks of land offer white-sand beaches, coral reefs, and their own unique personality.
Lying just nine miles to the south of St. Vincent, Bequia is the largest of the Grenadine islands - a compact seven square miles. Her history has been deeply entwined with the sea for generations. The age-old traditions of boat-building, fishing and whaling are still evident.
The island, 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide at its widest point, is hilly, with a large plain in the north and is essentially composed of seven valleys each with a white sand beach and wooded hills that rise to a height of 495 feet.
Set in the middle of the Grenadine archipelago, Canouan is an island of only 5 square miles.
Mayreau lies west of the Tobago Cays. It is the smallest (1½ square miles) of the inhabited Grenadine islands, with a population of two hundred and fifty-four people. Mayreau is accessible only by boat. The island is rimmed by magnificent sweeping white sandy beaches perfect for sailing and snorkeling.
The huge Horseshoe Reef that protects these five deserted islets, with their dazzling, palm-studded shorelines, provides some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. The brilliant powdery, white sand, the colored waters shaded in unimaginable blues and the neon marine life beneath give true meaning to the "stop-the-world-l-want-to-get-off' Caribbean fantasy.
The Cays have been declared a wildlife reserve by the government and all visitors are urged to preserve and protect this unique natural resource. No fishing, jet skis, or anchoring of dinghies allowed.
Petit Rameau features a beach on the south side of the cay, as does Barabel, which lies southeast of Petit Rameau. Petit Bateau provides visitors a shaded beach to the north and another beach on its east side. This easterly beach is the best choice for beginning snorkelers as it has calm shallow water. More experienced snorkelers will be delighted by the waters surrounding Horseshoe Reef, but may find it occasionally choppy.
The smallest and southernmost cay, Jamesby, features on its eastern side one of the best beaches of the group. Petit Tabac where Johnny Depp was marooned as Sparrow in Disney's blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl", is the most inaccessible with a narrow entrance at the southwestern tip. This crescent shaped islet is covered in coconut trees planted by the late John Caldwell (a.k.a. Johnny Coconut), formerly of Palm Island and his efforts have been continued by Glenroy Adams of Grenadines Dive, a devoted conservationist and a good choice for scuba diving in the area.
Petit St. Vincent, or PSV, as it is often called, is one of the world's most enchanting hideaways. Over its varied terrain (113-acres) twenty-two private cottages are scattered some on hillsides, some set into the sides of cliffs, some right on the beach - all absolutely heavenly. For most people the appeal of PSV is what it "does not have"- no telephones or television, no air-conditioning, no casinos or cabarets. Not even room keys.
When you want nothing so much as to be alone, you simply send up the red flag on the bamboo pole outside your cottage and you are instantly furnished with that most valuable of commodities exclusive privacy. On the other hand, hoist a yellow flag and the staff are at your service, whether it's a picnic lunch served on the beach, or a night cap in your villa.
There is plenty to keep the active people busy, and hammocks have been strategically placed all along the beaches for those who just want to unwind and relax. In the interest of guests' sought after privacy, access by non-guests is limited to the main building which houses the bar, restaurant and boutique. Dinner is by reservation only.
Union Island is located midway between Grenada and St. Vincent and is equidistant from Barbados, Trinidad and Martinique. Clifton Harbour is a small, busy port and the centre of the day- chartering industry.
Snorkelers will find good conditions on Lagoon Reef, which protects most of the southern coast of the island, especially around Frigate Island, just offshore from Ashton.
Sun, sea and sand lovers will enjoy Chatham Bay on the west coast (it is also a protected anchorage) and Bloody Bay, on the northwest coast, with its captivating view and long sandy beach, Big Sands is a crescent-shaped beach on the east coast and is ideal for surfing. Richmond Bay on the north coast is shallow and great for children.
Normal banking hours are Monday 8:00am-3:00pm. Tuesday through Thursday from 8:00am-2:00pm. On Fridays, most banks open from 8:00am-5:00pm. ATM machines are available at various banks, check your specific island for details. Traveller’s cheques and foreign currencies can be exchanged with ease.
The currency of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$). Notes are issued in denominations of $100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2. Coins are issued in denominations of $1 and 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents. The exchange rate is tied to the US dollar at a rate of $2.70. Major credit cards are widely accepted in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The average yearly temperature is 81° F (21 C). The coolest months are between November and February. During the rainy season, May through October, rain is frequent in the mountains of St. Vincent with the annual average rainfall being 150 inches inland and 80 inches on the coast.
A Passenger Departure Tax of $40.00 USD must be paid at the airport when departing St. Vincent and the Grenadines by air, although it may be included in the cost of your airline ticket. Please check with your agent to see whether or not this is the case.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has an abundant supply of potable water as the level of rainfall is high; however, bottled water is widely available.
British rules apply, so please drive on the left and be extra careful. A temporary driving license, costing EC$50, must be purchased at a police station or Licensing Authority, with the presentation of a valid overseas driver’s license. If you have an International Driving Permit you must get it stamped at the central police station.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a reliable supply of electricity. Electricity is generally 220/240 volt, 50 cycle, except for Petit St. Vincent which has 110 volt, 60 cycle. Most hotels have 110 volt shaver outlets. The standard electrical plug has 3 rectangular pins so remember to pack an adapter.
All persons entering St Vincent & the Grenadines require valid passports, a return or onward ticket as well as sufficient funds to cover their stay for up to six months. A return or onward ticket is required of all visitors.
The temperature hardly changes year-round, however rainfall is a different matter. July is the wettest month with an average of 26 days of measurable rainfall, while April, the driest month, averages just six days of rain. January to May are the driest months but they're also the peak tourist season, meaning less availability in accommodations and higher prices. Generally, the Grenadines tend to be drier than St Vincent.
No vaccinations or preventative medications are required for travel to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, we always suggest that you speak to your family physician for a personal recommendation.
WATER TEMPERATURES AND WETSUITS:
Water temperatures generally range between 78 – 80°F
Most people find wearing a 1mm – 3mm wetsuit keeps them comfortable.