As we settle into fall, temperatures start to drop and our clothing layer count begins to rise, it may be time to think about the warm weather escape you know you’ll be craving come winter. When the snow starts to fall, I invite you to think of visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines to get away from it all.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, or SVG, as those in the know call it, is a network of 32 islands in the Caribbean. Originally inhabited by Island Caribs, an indigenous people of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Region, the population would intermix with former African slaves who had escaped captivity, some escaping from nearby colonies and others from the shipwrecks of their captors on their journey from their homelands. This new population, called the Garifuna or “Black Caribs”, were able to stave off colonizing forces well into the 18th century, and even still retained a degree of autonomy even as their country passed between French and British rule. SVG was declared independent in 1979.
Today, SVG is a vibrant country that relies heavily on tourism to support its economy. Nine of the 32 islands are inhabited: Young Island, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Union Island, Mayreau, Petit St Vincent and Palm Island, and each play host to thousands of visitors every year in their own unique and charming ways. It boasts a beautiful tropical climate, warm and comfortable at some times and hot and humid at others – sunscreen and insect repellent are musts for this destination. The landscape is made up of lush green trees of all kinds as far as the eye can see, contrasting with beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise water, and colorful buildings and homes dotting along the picturesque countryside.
Getting to St. Vincent and the Grenadines is easier than ever, especially if you live in Toronto. Air Canada Rouge, Air Canada’s short haul subsidiary, operates direct flights from Pearson International Airport in Toronto to Argyle Airport in on St. Vincent’s main Island weekly during the summer months and twice weekly in the winter. Click here for more info (and maybe to book your ticket!)
When traveling to SVG, visitors may choose to stay on the main island, but I highly recommend checking out the smaller islands, the Grenadines as well, which is exactly what I did (more on that below). There are a few ways to get between islands in SVG. The Bequia Express Ferry is a public ferry that runs daily between different islands, and can be booked by anybody for very reasonable fares. If you’re looking for a more VIP way to travel, Fantasea Tours is a private tour company that can be booked for private transfers between islands or tours. If you want ultimate baller status, then a catamaran is the way to go. The catamaran life is a quintessential SVG experience, and if that sounds good to you then book with Wind and Sea, who have no problem with you turning their boat into an outdoor nightclub if you so choose. And finally, there are also boats owned and operated by some of the different hotels that can also be used for transport between the different islands.
Meet the Islands
I had the pleasure of visiting several of the Islands in SVG. I couldn’t pick a favorite, so I’m writing about them all, and as you read on, you’ll soon see why.
Also called the grand island, St. Vincent is the largest island of its namesake country, located at the north end of the cluster. The island strikes a balance between natural beauty and bustling pockets of homes, businesses and the people that inhabit them. Its capital is the vibrant Kingstown, a bright and lively city where the government sits, as well as most of the economic activity in the country. It also boasts a 4,000 foot tall active volcano, La Soufriere, as well as a stunning waterfall park known as the Dark Falls.
We stayed at the Beachcombers Hotel, a colorful collection of houses and cottages perched atop a beautiful beach. The Paradise Beach Resort is another great option for accommodations, or even just for a delicious dinner. I highly recommend their BBQ night, and the lobster – it was divine.
The second largest island in SVG, Bequia is just a short ferry ride away from St. Vincent. The island is dotted with brightly colored houses, a trend we realized spread across all of SVG. Bequia, like St. Vincent gave us a peek at life for the citizens of SVG outside of the tourism community. As we drove around the island, we passed residents conducting their daily business and living their lives surrounded by the natural beauty Canadians like us crave and flock to. We started our day in Bequia with a beautiful breakfast at the Bequia Beach Hotel, followed by a tour of the luxurious property. After a day at the beach we enjoyed a delicious dinner at our home for the night, the Bequia Plantation Hotel, many of us choosing the kitchen’s signature pizza. We then spent a night each in our own beautiful cottage on the estate, the colorful facades a miniature version of the cheery houses we would see all through our trip. The next morning we indulged in a decadent breakfast of fresh pastries made in house, some with the Chef’s own personal chocolate stash. Then our little group caught a private boat to our next destination, Canouan.
This island derives its name from the Arawakan word Cannoun, meaning turtle, so occasionally you’ll hear Canouan referred to as turtle island. And yes, you will see turtles just about everywhere on the island, ducking into their shells as we drove by on golf carts and just sauntering around the island like it was their own (which it is). Boasting crisp white sandy beaches, surrounded by some of the most beautiful turquoise water I’ve ever seen, landing on Canouan was so picture perfect it almost felt artificial. The island was the perfect setting for our most decadent hotel experience, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. If opulence is what you desire, then this hotel is for you. With hotel suites fit for a king, with enough gadgets to satisfy a silicon valley founder and views beautiful enough to inspire an artist, the Mandarin Oriental truly creates a multisensory experience. Speaking of the senses, taste was definitely not neglected: the food at each of the restaurants we dined at was divine, featuring a combination of global delicacies and locally inspired dishes. But nothing beat the beautiful infinity pool complete with hot pink umbrellas and lounge chairs, a chic pop of color making every Instagram shot picture perfect.
Petit St. Vincent
If your idea of a perfect vacation includes peace, quiet and relaxing solitude, then Petit St. Vincent is the destination for you. PSV is a small island in the Grenadines, with the entire island is dedicated to a luxury resort of the same name. A destination frequented by rock stars seeking to escape their hectic lifestyles (and the attention that comes with them), PSV works hard to curate their guest experiences on a personal level. The resort is made up of a network of cabins, each with their own unique style, offering a balance of heartwarming comfort and extravagant indulgence. If you want to simply stay in your cabin for the duration of your stay, interacting and socializing with no one, then you can! Simply leverage their simple yet ingenious flag and note system to order room service, decline cleaning and turn down service and keep to yourself in the best way possible. If you are up for socializing, PSV boasts multiple dining and imbibing establishments, featuring a variety of delicious cocktails and cuisines. If wine is what you’re after then you’re in luck as they also boast a magnificent collection housed in the most epic wine cellar I’ve ever seen. No matter what you’re after, a trip to the spa is a must. The treatment rooms are tree houses and you’re serenaded by nature and bathed in sun or moonlight as you bask in relaxation.
From PSV we took a chartered boat to our next destination, Palm Island. Similar to PSV, Palm Island is mostly comprised of the beautiful Palm Island Resort, surrounded by the island and resort’s namesake trees. There are a few privately owned villas on the island, whose owners generally keep to themselves, an aspirational goal to say the least. Palm Island Resort is run by one of the most fabulous humans I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, Katie Rosiak. With her perfect blonde hair, supermodel height and style to match, with wit and humor that can only belong to the French, Katie was the consummate hostess, guide and dining companion. She gave us a private tour of the island, including the heartwarming baby turtle sanctuary, pointing out the many hammock stations around the island (a high priority for me of course) and proudly showing off one of her personal triumphs, the island’s luxury spa (protip: get the massage, you won’t regret it). At night we dined on lobster while sipping French champagne, and by day we biked around the island, exploring its’ natural beauty, including the stunning beaches.
And an honorable mention goes to Mopian Island. This tiny speck of land is basically a photo opp in island form, and a physical manifestation of something I never thought I’d ever experience; drone FOMO. Just a short boat ride away from Palm Island, Mopian looks manmade but I can assure you it is not. It’s simply a little miracle of nature, tucked away in the Grenadines. Bring a picnic and bask in Mopian’s diminutive delightfulness.
Our final destination in SVG was Young Island. An extremely quick boat ride from the shores of St. Vincent, it’s truly breathtaking to see how the island’s namesake resort nestles itself perfectly within the island’s naturally rocky and picturesque landscape. Of all the resorts we experienced on the trip, Young Island Resort felt the most perfectly situated of them all. Though getting between the different cottages proved challenging at time due to the rocky terrain that one was often climbing more than walking, the stunning vantages of every cottage, and the incredible views afforded by these varying heights made the sore calves so very worth it. They also made it possible to indulge in the restaurant’s delicious cuisine without guilt, which came in handy when I sampled its famous Flaming French toast, which is a must try when visiting Young Island.
The confluence of the cultural and eco diversity and favorable climate comes together in SVG to make for a great backdrop for food. From incredible seafood, spiced chicken and all manner of sweet and savoury sides, check out some more of the amazing dishes we dined on throughout this trip.
I’ve done many press trips but there are few that were as special as this one. From the incredible group of women I had the privilege of travelling with, to our welcoming guides and hosts across every island we visited, and of course the warm hearted welcome we received every where we went from the wonderful people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. If you have he chance to visit this beautiful network of Islands, I highly recommend it. Never have I been in a place that combined such natural beauty with such fantastic hospitality on every level. There’s something for everyone on SVG and no matter who you are you’ll love exploring to find out exactly what that is.