Saturday, January 16, 2010

Taste of the Real Caribbean ...

... on a visit to St Vincent and the Grenadines(07 January 2010)

St Vincent and the Grenadines has been a well-kept secret among travellers seeking luxurious hideaways, idyllic settings, and a taste of the truly authentic Caribbean. However, a multi-million dollar investment programme to boost tourism looks set to let that secret out.

The government is investing £4.5 million in sustainable development projects to improve 20 key tourist sites, such as the Soufriere Cross Country Trail.Construction is also under way on St Vincent’s Argyle international airport. UK visitors usually fly to Barbados with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic and transfer to local airlines such as LIAT or Caribbean Airlines. However, the new airport, which is scheduled to be completed in 2012, will accommodate direct flights from Europe.

Strides are also being made in accommodation. July will see St Vincent gain its first five-star luxury property. The Buccament Bay Beach Resort will feature a Pat Cash Tennis Academy and a Liverpool Football Club Soccer School.

Why go?

Caribtours product manager Katherine Hobbs says: “Clients who choose to holiday in the Grenadines are often looking for the tiny palm-fringed islands and deserted white-sand beaches that represent the true Caribbean.” She says the islands have some of the best sailing, scuba diving and snorkelling in the Caribbean and are great for island-hopping.

For older couples looking for the ultimate getaway, suggest they go to a private island such as Young or Palm.

Kuoni Caribbean product manager Karen Walpole says: “Our biggest seller to the Grenadines is Palm Island, an Elite Island Resort. “It tends to be mostly couples aged 40-plus who book this property, which offers total escapism. More independent travellers and younger couples like to stay at our small boutique hotel, the Friendship Bay Resort in Bequia.

”For couples seeking the ultimate romantic experience, Harlequin Holidays recommends booking a Sailaway package, which includes five nights’ accommodation on Young Island plus two nights’ sailing through the Grenadines, visiting islands such as Bequia and Mustique.

A Carrier spokeswoman says that its Grenadines clients are mainly couples who stay, on average, at least seven nights. For families, she suggests Raffles in Canouan. The luxury resort is equipped to cater for the needs of children and parents, and boasts a spa, golf course and idyllic beach.

The islands

Of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ 32 islands, there are nine major ones:

St Vincent is volcanic and unspoilt and its beaches have black and golden sand. The climb up La Soufriere, an active but dormant volcano, is popular with hikers.

Bequia is smaller and more manicured than St Vincent, with secluded bays, white-sand beaches and turquoise seas. Choose Bequia 
for sailing, snorkelling, and turtle watching.

Canouan offers white-sand beaches and a turquoise sea, and is where you’ll find the luxurious Raffles Resort. You can also charter a yacht from Canouan.

Mayreau, which can be reached only by boat, offers a taste of the untouched Caribbean.

Mustique, one of the smaller islands, offers an intimate and exclusive getaway with nine soft-sand beaches. Cotton House is the island’s only full-service hotel.

Palm Island is an idyllic desert island hideaway, popular with mainly an adult audience, especially honeymooners.

Petit St Vincent promises the ultimate in peace and quiet: no TV, telephones or cabaret, so it is ideal for those who want to get away from it all.

Union Island is ideal for those seeking a more adventurous holiday, as this island offers sailing, hiking, snorkelling and scuba-diving.

Young Island, a 35-acre private island with tropical garden, is laid back and relaxed, and just a few minutes by ferry from St Vincent.

The lowdown

• Location: St Vincent and the Grenadines is situated 100 miles west of Barbados, between St Lucia in the north and Grenada in the south.

• Main islands: St Vincent, Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique, Union Island, Palm Island, Petit St Vincent, and Young Island.

• Weather: The average temperature is 27C. The coolest months are between November and February. Rainy season is May to October.

• Language: English.

• Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar.

• Population: 110,000.

Sample product

Caribtours offers seven nights in St Vincent and the Grenadines from £2,368 per person, combining four nights at Palm Island, in a palm-view room, all-inclusive, with three nights’ bed and breakfast at Tamarind Beach Hotel, Canouan. The price includes Virgin Atlantic flights and inter-island flights., 020 7751 0660 Kuoni offers seven nights at Friendship Bay Beach Resort, Bequia, room-only, in an ocean-view room, including British Airways flights and in-resort transfers. Prices lead in at £1,540 per person, twin-share., 01306 747008

Karen Dempsey