When people think of a Caribbean vacation, they usually imagine laying out on a white-sand beach with nothing to do except work on their tan and order another mai tai. There's nothing wrong with some hard-earned rest among the surf and sand, but some vacationers prefer excitement over relaxation. If that describes you, there are tons of adventures waiting for you at Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Located in Saint Vincent, La Soufriere last erupted in 1979, putting it very firmly in the active category. Tour guides are available to take you on this long and winding hike, pointing out the profusion of plant and animal life along the route. The trail isn't for the faint of heart, as the summit is over four thousand feet above sea level and the weather is usually quite hot. Make sure to wear sunscreen and bring lots of water.
If you're not quite up for a volcanic hike, the Vermont Nature Trail is a much gentler route that still allows you to take in natural Caribbean beauty. Just a few miles north of Kingston, this trail takes about two hours to complete at a leisurely pace. Part of it crosses through a parrot preserve, where over five hundred species of parrot roost.
Saint Vincent is home to hundreds of plant and animal species, many of them threatened. The garden is a twenty-acre preserve intended to conserve and protect these species. In operation since 1765, this botanical garden is also one of the oldest. Tourists are welcome to visit in their own time or attend one of the many public cultural events held on the grounds. Check the calendar to find out what's on offer.
This hike is more of a walk, taking around fifteen minutes to complete. But what fifteen minutes! After passing through a bamboo grove, visitors must cross several natural bamboo bridges over a steep gorge. Those who complete the path are rewarded by Dark View Falls, where they might take a soothing swim in the pools below the waterfall.
Years ago, abandoned conch shells were an environmental problem. One enterprising young man, Janti Ramage, came up with a unique and elegant solution. Collecting as many shells as he could, Ramage used them to build a home and bar on what he dubbed Happy Island. Reachable only by boat, the island is open twenty-four hours a day.
Located on the north-eastern part of Saint Vincent, near the village of the same name, the salt pond is the result of ocean water spilling into a bowl created during a volcanic eruption. Locals believe the saltwater has healing properties. Whether true or not, many find a swim in the pond relaxing and therapeutic. Plan your trip carefully, as the pond is closed at night.
Over a thousand square acres in size, the area of protected land in the Tobago Cays Marine Park includes several underwater coral reefs. Experienced divers are welcome to explore Horseshoe Reef, over a mile long and home to many species of marine wildlife. Less-experienced swimmers can snorkel along the shoreline, where they might encounter sea turtles or even jackfish and barracudas.
Every year, on Easter Weekend, the island of Bequia hosts a sailing competition. Though the focus is on the yacht races held each day, the entire island gets into the spirit of competition and holds a weekend-long party. In addition to yachts, local fishers hold their own race in colorful sailboats. After the sun goes down and the winners receive their crown, the music and dancing start.
Held every Friday and Saturday in the capital city, the Kingstown Market far surpasses any other farmer's market. Fishers and farmers alike bring their harvest to market, where customers can buy fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables, and a dizzying array of rare spices. In addition to the fresh fare, many sellers offer traditional Caribbean dishes from small carts.
In late spring, leatherback turtles lay their eggs on several Union Island beaches. Despite the protections the government has given to this threatened species, poachers frequently hunt for turtle eggs. The activist group Environmental Attackers works hard each season to protect nests, and the baby turtles that hatch every summer need help to reach the sea. Visitors are always welcome to help, so contact Environmental Attackers for more information.
Though Barbados was the center of piracy during the Age of Sail, Disney turned to Wallilabou Bay, on the west coast of Saint Vincent, to film Pirates of the Caribbean. The sets have been carefully preserved, and visitors are welcome to come channel their inner Jack Sparrow and explore what has now become a living monument to the film's creation.
Once a sugar mill, Firefly Plantation now conducts tours focusing on the history of food production in the Caribbean. Visitors can crush their own sugar from sugar canes, see how sea salt is made, or sample a wide array of seasonal fruits, including the native Bequia plum and bananas taken right off the tree. Much of the plantations' goods are available for purchase, and adults can relax in the bar after a tour and enjoy cocktails made from fruit grown right on the grounds.
After adventuring in the hills and forests of the Caribbean, you might want to relax at the resort island of Canouan. Getting to the island can be difficult--be prepared to charter a boat or plane--but the spas are worth it. Two resorts operate on the island, where you can book a stay in a luxury villa right on the sand. The spas offer massages, advanced skincare, and several signature therapies, sometimes directly over the water.
Three ships sank close together in Kingston Harbor in the 18th century, and are now choice destinations for scuba divers to explore. Though the wrecks are not deep, guides recommend that only experienced divers take the plunge. If shipwrecks aren't your thing, the Bat Cave offers a dive through an underwater fissure and into a cave filled with bats. Anchor Reef, one of the most prized diving sites in the world, lets divers interact with diverse Caribbean marine life.
It's party time! Vincy Mas is the Saint Vincent equivalent of Carnival or Mardi Gras and is celebrated every July as one of the region's biggest summer parties. The J'ouvert celebration features elaborate costumes, and the festivities include the crowning of the Miss SVG beauty queen and that year's Carnival royalty, soca and calypso competitions, and parties lasting all night long.