St Vincent top ten

Don’t know what to do in St Vincent and the Grenadines? You’ll be spoilt for choice if you follow Paul Crask’s suggestions

A green turtle comes up for air at Tobago Cays. Photograph by Paul CraskThe bamboo bridge river crossing at Dark View Falls. Photograph by Paul CraskThe Owia Salt Pond. Photograph by Paul Crask

La Soufriere

At just over 1,200 metres, La Soufriere is St Vincent’s tallest peak and dominates the entire north of the island. Still active, this volcano last erupted in 1979, though fortunately with no casualties. A hike to the top takes about two hours from the windward side, though there is a clearly marked and easy-to-follow trail that links the windward and leeward sides of the island. Starting from the dense banana plantations of Rabacca, the trail gradually ascends through montane thicket and elfin woodland to the ashen slopes of the rim itself. The crater opens up before you, and in its centre the active lava dome smoulders ominously. On the western rim you may see a rope running down to the crater floor. Climbing down is steep and hazardous and is best done with a local guide.

Owia Salt Pond

Located on the northeastern coast of St Vincent, the Owia Salt Pond is a large and wonderfully tranquil rock pool created by time and tide. Owia’s waters are gin-clear and continuously refreshed by waves cascading over the volcanic rock formations that surround this natural oasis.

The long and winding journey along St Vincent’s windward coastline, passing through the former Amerindian settlements of Sandy and Owia, is worth the reward of your final destination. With a backdrop of La Soufriere volcano and traditional arrowroot crops, Owia Salt Pond is so beautiful and serene you will never want to leave.

Trinity Falls

One of St Vincent’s more obscure waterfalls, Trinity is certainly worth seeking out. Start in the settlement of Richmond, almost at the very end of the paved road on the leeward coast, and head inland along a rough vehicle track. Dwindling to a narrow trail, the walk to the falls takes about an hour from the main road and passes through a lovely forest environment. A little up and down, but not too demanding, the trail emerges at a dramatic river gorge where the fast-flowing white waters tumble over a series of three waterfalls. Extremely pretty, yet turbulent and unpredictable, the Trinity Falls are one of St Vincent’s secrets and should be on the must-do list of all hiking enthusiasts.

Dark View Falls

Much more on than off the beaten track – it’s one of St Vincent’s more accessible natural attractions – Dark View Falls is a tall waterfall that cascades down a cliff face into two lovely bathing pools. Well signposted and just a short distance from the west coast road, the walk to Dark View Falls is short but exhilarating.

A river crossing over a rickety bamboo bridge is fabulous fun, and on the opposite side is a wonderful open glade, surrounded by bamboo thickets, illuminated by shafts of sunlight – an absolutely perfect spot for a picnic.

Try to go there when there is no cruise ship in port, as it can be crowded on those days.

Mesopotamia Valley

Often referred to as St Vincent’s breadbasket, the lush and verdant Mesopotamia Valley is home to fertile farmlands and vibrant flower gardens. From the southern village of Mesopotamia, take the narrow road inland and enjoy wonderful views as they open up all around you. Look out for the Montreal Gardens at the end of this country road and take a walk along clearly marked pathways through grove after grove of tropical trees and colourful flowers such as anthuriums, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and ginger lilies. For an all-encompassing view of the valley, head for the Belmont viewing platform, a little to the north-east of the capital, Kingstown.

Vermont Nature Trail

St Vincent has its very own indigenous parrot, known appropriately as the St Vincent Parrot (Amazona guildingii). Whilst the easiest place to spot them is in the aviaries at Kingstown’s Botanical Gardens, if you want to see them flying in the wild, you should take a trip to the Vermont Nature Trail. Set in the southern interior, the Vermont Nature Trail is a 10,000-acre reserve that is home to a circular hike of around two hours that passes through both plantation and rainforest habitats. An undulating but very accessible walk, the trail brings you to a parrot look-out on the far side of the reserve where sightings of St Vincent’s national bird are very common, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.

Bequia

A one-hour ferry ride from Kingstown brings you to the pretty island of Bequia. Famous for its annual Easter Regatta, Bequia is a huge draw for sailing enthusiasts from all over the world.

A walk or taxi ride around Bequia will bring you to a number of beautiful beaches such as Princess Margaret, Lower Bay, Spring, Industry and Friendship Bay. A stroll around the fringes of Admiralty Bay and the Belmont Walkway will entice you with lively bars and great restaurants. Look out for the model sailboat shops and the fabulous Maritime Museum, where you can learn about Bequia’s boatbuilding traditions and its history of whaling (the island still retains its limited indigenous whaling rights, using traditional sailboats and hand-thrown harpoons).

The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary is Park Bay is worth a visit to see turtle conservation in action.

Tobago Cays

To see and swim with green turtles in their natural habitat, take a boat trip to the breathtaking Tobago Cays. This wonderful marine park, to the east of Mayreau, consists of five uninhabited cays, a series of beautiful lagoons, and a large barrier reef. The waters are crystal clear and teeming with colourful fish and green turtles.

Used as a location for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the Tobago Cays is still unspoilt and idyllic. You can get there by regular boat excursions from Bequia, St Vincent or Union, or take a water taxi from any of the Southern Grenadines.

Mayreau

Diminutive Mayreau is still relatively untouched and, with no airstrip, the only way to get there is by boat. At the northern end of Mayreau is Saltwhistle Bay, a beautiful and tranquil anchorage for visiting sailboats. At the southern end is the equally serene Saline Bay. Between the two lies a very quaint and sleepy village, with an old stone church at the brow of the hill from where you can enjoy great views of the Tobago Cays.

To get to Mayreau, take a water taxi or regular catamaran excursion from Union Island.

Petit St Vincent (PSV)

After all your exertions, it is finally time for a well-deserved period of relaxation and luxury. Petit St Vincent, or PSV as it is commonly known, is a private island resort in the Southern Grenadines. To get there, fly to Union Island and then step aboard a private motor launch that will be sent to collect you. With 22 private cottages situated at the water’s edge, no TV nor even room keys, this fabulous tropical hideaway is the perfect end to your SVG adventures.