GREAT ESCAPE: BEQUIA, SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
At first glance, Bequia might not seem like the type of “city” that really requires a full guide but trust us – there’s a lot going on on this tiny island. Tucked away in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a lesser known corner of the Caribbean, Bequia is an island paradise with personality. For a shot of winter sun, it’s the ultimate destination for the gloomy months. But be warned – getting to Bequia is not glamorous; it’s either a rough and ready ferry from mainland St. Vincent or a hair raising hour’s flight in a very small plane from Barbados or Grenada. However, its staggeringly beautiful beaches and landscape combined with the island’s lively community, great restaurants, and music scene make it well worth the bumpy ride.
Sugar Reef is a boutique hotel on the wilder, Atlantic-facing side of the island. Set within a sprawling coconut plantation, the main building is an enormous hall perched right on the beach and decorated in Hamptons-meets-Caribbean style,complete with spectacular chandeliers made from local shells and driftwood. There are three beachfront rooms as well as the French House, an original plantation house, located a quick 10 minute walk away on the hotel grounds. Rooms up here are more reasonably priced, with amazing views looking out to the islands of Balliceaux and Battowia and a wonderful breeze that means there’s no need for air con. The French House’s plunge pool is also great for a quick cool off.
Prices start from £96 per night based on two people sharing
Sugar Reef, Crescent Beach, Belmont Road
With a sister hotel on the neighbouring island of Mustique, favourite holiday escape of rock stars and royalty, the Firefly offers some of the most luxurious accommodation in Bequia. Also found towards the western side of the island and a short drive from Port Elizabeth, the Firefly is built on an 18th century estate and is surrounded by acres of verdant tropical grounds. The hotel’s restaurant serves up home grown, seasonal produce and the atmosphere is relaxed but refined. Rooms are luxurious but understated and prices are steep, but that’s the cost you pay for privacy, seclusion, and total relaxation. If you can afford it, it’s completely worth it.
Prices start from £237 per night based on two people sharing
Firefly Plantation, Spring Bay / + 1 784-488-8414
Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary
However well travelled you are, its unlikely that you’ll have seen anything like this before. Housed within a ramshackle barn that’s surrounded by roaming guinea fowl and goats, retired local fisherman Orton King has set up a sanctuary which rescues young and injured turtles from the nearby beaches, allowing them to grow and thrive in safe surroundings before releasing them back into the wild. Orton provides a personal tour around this small but extraordinary sanctuary making it.
A day spent on this magnificent classic schooner sailing boat is no ordinary tourist cruise. The irresistibly romantic-looking Friendship Rose sails from Bequia and offers routes throughout the Grenadines as well as a trip to the spectacular Tobago Cays, a world famous marine park. You’ll then stop off at the deserted and picture perfect beaches of Mayreau, which is an absolute must. Just remember to bring plenty of suncream and some sturdy sea legs on the Friendship Rose – you’ll need both.
Offices located at the Bequia waterfront
UK: 0800 0484814 / US: +1 784-457-3888
If possible, time your trip to coincide with the annual music festival at the end of January. Locals, ‘yachties’, and visitors all enjoy this four-day long event which takes place at several venues across the island and is as close to Glastonbury as you’ll get in the Grenadines. Expect to see local, traditional, musicians alongside larger headlining acts, plus good deal of dancing on the beach.
2015 dates to be announced / email@example.com
Fruit and Vegetable Market
Even if you’re not buying, its worth visiting the market to get a taste of local Bequia life. The noisy and colourful marketplace is about as hectic as Bequia gets. There’s plenty of friendly competition between the stallholders, all showing off their produce which includes some of the ripest papaya and mango you’ll ever taste. Cool down with some fresh coconut water, drunken straight from the coconut and prepared right in front of you.
TO EAT + DRINK
Even if you’re not staying here, it’s still worth making the trip for either lunch or dinner. Making use of Sugar Reef’s surrounding acres, the restaurant tries to be as self sufficient as possible by making its own honey and growing its own fruit and vegetables. Seeing as it’s a coconut plantation, coconut forms the basis for much of the food and drink. Expect (more) fresh coconut water, the best rum punch on the island, and imaginative dishes like Callaloo Lasagne and Lobster Roti, which is served with mango chutney and papaya-black bean salsa.
Tucked away in the hillside above the island’s Lower Bay, Nando’s, as its locally known, is a restaurant for those in the know. Resembling a very romantic tree house, you always have to book in advance but the intimate, candle lit atmosphere, and incredible menu, which changes on a daily basis, more than make up for it.
Fernando’s Hideaway, Lower Bay / +1 784-458-3758
Jack’s Bar is a lively lunch spot located on Princess Margaret Beach. I’d happily spend the rest of my days enjoying the perfect, unpeopled surroundings and lunching on the incredible fresh tuna nicoise, washed down with one of Jack’s excellent banana daiquiris.
Jack’s Bar, Princess Margaret Beach / firstname.lastname@example.org / +1 784-457-3672
Walking shoes are must-brings – you’ll need them for exploring the island, discovering the best beaches, not to mention working off all those rum punches. A good book is also a necessity. Outside of the annual music festival, Bequia is not known for its nightlife, so use the lack of after-dark activity as a chance to catch up on some good reads.
Most importantly: bring along your (potentially forgotten) friendliness. Forget commuter death stares of back home, the locals here are friendly and are only too happy to stop and chat.
Words by Isabella Redmond Styles, @StylesIsabella