St. Vincent and the Grenadines, also known just as St. Vincent, lies south of St. Lucia and west of Barbados. The country is comprised of 32 islands and cays that amount to approximately 150 square miles of surface land. The small island space is densely populated with over 102,000 residents.
Inhabited by Caribs until 1719, the island was also a haven for escaped or shipwrecked African slaves. The French were the first Europeans to settle on the island despite the claim made by the English in 1627. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 gave the island back to the English but was returned again to French rule in 1779 after the First Carib War. Only four years later, the English once again took control of St. Vincent in the term of the Treaty of Versailles.
Conflict between the English and the Caribs resulting in thousands of the indigenous people being deported. After several failed attempts to unite St. Vincent with other Windward Islands in the early 1960s, associate statehood was granted in 1969. Ten years later, the island was the last of the Windward Islands to achieve independence.
Today, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy that recognizes Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. She is represented by the Governor General while true government control resides with the elected Prime Minister.
While other Caribbean islands have economies driven mainly by tourism, St. Vincent’s is still dominated by agriculture. Banana production is dominant in this industry and crucial to the economy. Tourism is a growing industry with much potential. The filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies on the island put a spotlight on this opportunity for both visitors and investors.
When to Travel
Average temperature on St. Vincent is 81°F year round. Cooler temperatures are possible from November to February, but the variation is marginal. Rainfall is heavier during the months of May through October. Average rainfall on the coast is around 80 inches while inland receives almost double that amount. Like other islands, hurricane season runs from July to October, matching most of the rainy season.
High season in St. Vincent occurs during the months of December through April. Hotel rates will be at their highest, but so will available services. These months are host to many spectacular festivals and the Bequia Easter Regatta. Occurring in early April, this event has been running formally since 1981, but has roots that reach well before. Fisherman’s boats are now impressive yachts and the excitement of the event has grown with the ships.
For visitors to the island that are music lovers, late January is a perfect time to travel. The Bequia Music Festival and Mustique Blues Festival are both held in this month and fantastic events to see. Foodies will find August appealing if they catch the Breadfruit Festival. Celebrating emancipation, dishes of breadfruit prepared in a variety of ways will tempt the palate at this month long event. Breadfruit drinks, cheese pie, and pizza are just a few of the unique foods made with this fruit.
May and June is the perfect time to take advantage of high season weather without the high season rates, not to mention avoiding hurricane season. If that isn’t enough to entice you, perhaps the nation’s premiere cultural festival will. Vincy Mas begins in May extending through early July and brings masqueraders and costumed theatrics to the streets. This colorful celebration of history and life is set to music and will ensure this islands finds a home in your heart.
Cuisine and Drinks
The country’s national dish is roasted breadfruit and fried jack fish. This simple dish highlights the natural beauty of both ingredients. Sometimes served with a sauce, but not for lack of flavor. Breadfruit is particularly celebrated on the island, but not the only exceptional crop available.
Arrowroot is an ancient crop and St. Vincent is one of the few places that still cultivates it. Ground into a powder it is often used as a flour substitute. Arrowroot thickens at a lower temperature than flour and is not as affected by acidic ingredients. Arrowroot cakes are popular on the tables of locals. This biscuit-like baked good is great with soups or just a snack on its own.
Callaloo soup is less soup and more stew. Made with callaloo, leaves similar to spinach, preparation may vary by chef. Some varieties may be thicker than others, spices may slightly vary, but the consistency of the enjoyment this dish has to offer does not waver.
Tri-Tri cakes are simply fish cakes made with the tri-tri fish, also known as the West Indian whitebait fish. This ingredient is a local delicacy loved by all. Simply prepared and fried, it is often served with the beloved breadfruit and salad.
While filling your belly, don’t forget to wet your palate with a glass of the local Sunset rum. If beer is more your style, have a bottle of Hairoun. Namesake of the Amerindian title for the island, the meaning is spot on for the taste of this local brew. You will feel blessed in the Land of the Blessed with a bottle of this in your hand.
La Soufriere Volcano – The hike to the top of this spectacular active volcano is not for the beginner, but well worth the trip. After trekking for two hours uphill, you will find yourself at the edge of this massive crater. Volcanic rock and ash will greet you when you arrive. The volcano has not erupted since 1979, but it is still a wondrous site to see.
Black Point Tunnel – This 360 foot long tunnel is a must see marvel. Also referred to as Jasper Rock Tunnel, construction dates back to 1815. Used to enable more efficient transportation of sugar from Grand Sable Estate to the sea, the engineering was nothing short of remarkable for the time.
Botanic Gardens – The third oldest in the Western Hemisphere, the Botanic Gardens in Kingstown has been a center of conservation for rare flora since 1765. This peaceful haven is a perfect venue for all occasions and is used by both visitors and locals for all manner of special events. You can also find the Nicholas Wildlife Aviary Complex within the Gardens. Their captive breeding program was designed specifically for the protection of the St. Vincent Parrot, the national bird. A feast for the eyes, the Botanic Gardens is a worthy stop.
Fort Duvernette – Located just south of St. Vincent mainland stands a 195 foot high lava neck. Locals often refer to this location as Rock Fort. Accessible only by boat, this outstanding work of nature houses both a unique ecosystem and remnants of history.
Fort Charlotte – This historic fort presides over the capital city of Kingstown. Built in 1806 and perched at 600 feet, the views from the top of both the bay and Kingstown are breathtaking. The fort allows you the opportunity to touch history and the views will touch your soul.
Owia Salt Pond – Lava flow from Soufriere long ago encased this natural pool in volcanic boulders. Partially enclosed from the Atlantic Ocean, this distinctive coastal feature has been traditionally used as a therapeutic bathing pond. The crashing waves from the Atlantic not only serve to refresh the pool’s water supply, but bring a host of wildlife as well. This site’s beauty is only rivaled by the strong local belief in the therapeutic power of the water.
Wallilabou Heritage Park – The Wallilabou Estate formerly produced cotton, cocoa, and arrowroot. Today, the location serves as a beautiful glimpse into the past and ultimate location for touching all that the nature of St. Vincent has to offer. Take an opportunity to swim in the bathing pool listening to the sounds of the mini waterfall or picnic with your family in the recreation area. You can also see props from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean which filmed at this location.
The official currency of St. Vincent is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar. The US Dollar is also widely accepted and has a fixed exchange rate. Other international currencies have a variable exchange rate. Banks and many hotels can facilitate currency exchange. ATMs are available, but can at times be unreliable. Most major credit cards are accepted in the high volume tourist areas.
Driving in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is on the left in the British style. A local license is required and will cost approximately $65EC. Many car rental opportunities are available on the island. Taxis are also a convenient means of navigating this paradise.
Public nudity is prohibited on the island and its beaches. It is also not advisable to wear clothing suitable for swimming in public areas or in places of business. Camouflage clothing is also prohibited in St. Vincent.
The official language is English and is used in all forms of government and education. Locals will often speak Vincentian Creole in informal settings as well.
Accommodations on St. Vincent and the Grenadines includes just over 1700 available rooms in the form of hotels, resorts, villas, apartments, and guesthouses. With such limited rooms, it is advisable that you make reservations well in advance, especially if you are traveling during the peak season.