St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one of those sleepy Caribbean nations that's hard to pin down -- you're never quite sure where it is or what it looks like. St. Vincent, the administrative hub, and the seven main islands that constitute the Grenadines are located in the Windward Island chain between St. Lucia and Grenada. Although the tourist infrastructure isn't as elaborate as some of its northern neighbors, celebrities like Mick Jagger, British publisher Felix Dennis and Donald Trump have invested heavily in houses, real estate and development and Hollywood set up temporary shop here to film portions of each installment in The Pirates of the Caribbean series.
Regular folks who know where it is say it's not that expensive, and because of the many small islands untouched by development, the islands have maintained their natural state. Inter-island ferries get you to and from the main islands and small boats let you explore the smaller spots scattered about the warm Caribbean.
St. Vincent (tel. 800/729-1726; www.svgtourism.com) is the largest and northernmost of the main islands. Nicknamed the "land of the blessed," St. Vincent has an active but dormant volcano rising to a height of around 4,000 feet above sea level. The island is filled with waterfalls, private stretches of beach and wild flowers. Known for exceptional diving excursions, inland treks, great Caribbean food and quiet nighttime bars where local musicians play Caribbean tunes into the night, St. Vincent can be as relaxing as it is adventurous.
To get to St. Vincent, American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) has flights to Puerto Rico and most Caribbean spots with connections to the island group such as Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia or Grenada. From there SVG Air (tel. 800/744-5777; www.svgair.com) can island hop you to any of the major islands composing the island group. Prices start at $120 one way from Barbados to St. Vincent with add-ons to the Grenadines costing between $23 and $32. Big groups can charter a small plane for daily sightseeing tours.
Hotels in St. Vincent are easy to come by. Travelers can stay in guest houses, rental apartments, beachfront villas or luxury resorts. Guest houses and rental apartments are the least expensive options. The Beachcombers Inn (tel. 784/458-4283; www.beachcombershotel.com) is a small family-run inn located on the beach amidst a garden of flowers and swaying palm trees. With 31-rooms, a bar and restaurant, excursion booking, a small pool overlooking the yacht and island-dotted harbor, the Beachcomber is an affordable St. Vincent option with rates starting at $75 per night for a standard room and during high-season from December 1, 2006 to March 1, 2007. Seven nights get you an eighth night free. Not that you'd want to work, but the hotel does have wireless Internet service.
The Villa Lodge Hotel (tel. 800/448-8355; www.villalodge.com) is another affordable lodging option. Located just outside of the St. Vincent capital Kingston, the eleven-room, eight-apartment lodge has extremely private accommodations. Overlooking Indian Bay from an elevated perch on a hill, the hotel is also just walking distance from a tourist beach below. Rates start at $110 for a deluxe room and $130 for a deluxe apartment. A full breakfast is $8 extra per day.
To see the surrounding waterways by boat, Fantasea Tours (tel. 784/457-4477; www.fantaseatours.com) offers excursions into the Caribbean from St. Vincent on a fleet of vessels and vehicles that can take you sightseeing, deep-sea fishing, or scuba diving. Offering over 20 tours ranging from a history to a bird-watching to a waterfall tour, this tour company has been operating for over 20 years. Its popular land-based Flora and Fauna tour goes into the botanical gardens and visits the particular well-known spots throughout St. Vincent with the most extraordinary floral growth. All of the tours come with unlimited beverages and friendly local service. Call for prices and for custom-designed tours.
South of St. Vincent, the Grenadines spread out in the shape of a thin tail composed of islands including Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Palm Island, Union Island and Petit St. Vincent. Then there are the tiny private islands and smaller islands scattered about the Caribbean reachable by boat. Some of the islands, such as Palm Island, have only one big resort and a handful of restaurants to go with private residences that are for rent throughout the year. The more commercial Union Island is only a ten minute boat ride from the totally secluded Palm Island.
For accommodations on Bequia, the largest of the Grenadines and closest to St. Vincent, the Sugarapple Inn (tel. 784/457-3148; www.sugarappleinn.com) is just steps away from Friendship Bay's beach. Built to feel like your own private villa hideaway, the Sugarapple Inn has just eight self-contained, apartment-like rooms, a private very serene pool area and views of the bay below and the hills above. Rates start at just $89 a night during the high season from December 1, 2006 to April 30, 2007 or $535 for week-long stay. There is an on-premise restaurant and taxis are always available to whisk you into town for shopping, dining or late-night dancing.
For a package deal that'll thrill young children, Caribbean Fun Tours (tel. 784/456-5600; www.caribbeanfuntours.com) is offering five-day, four-night "Pirates of the Caribbean" tour that visits the sites and locations featured in the swashbuckling film series. Starting at $840 per person with round-trip airfare between St. Vincent and Barbados, the trip includes double occupancy lodging, daily activities and guided tours, and some local meals. St. Vincent, your home for the trip, is also the headquarters for movie. Billed as "living like a pirate," this package deal visits the forts and cobblestone streets where real pirates actually walked and where the films are set. One of the meals includes a picnic lunch in a bamboo grove below two large waterfalls.
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