Chairs for Rent, Lower Bay. Photo by Eva Holland
WHAT TO SAY ABOUT Bequia?
I could call it enchanting, idyllic, or seductively laid-back – all that would be true. I could tell you it’s a gem, or a jewel, a pristine and undeveloped (by Caribbean standards) oasis in a world of all-inclusives. Those things, clichéd or not, would also be true.
But everyone has their own idea of paradise, and yours might not be anything like mine. So instead I’ll just say that I love Bequia, and I think you might just love it too.
Here is all the information you need to discover the best of Bequia:
Bequia (pronounced Beck-way) is the second-largest rock in the island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – and at seven square miles, that’s not saying a whole lot.
High-end resort-goers and Hollywood celebrities drive the economies of neighboring Canouan and Mustique to the south, while rumor has it that the global narcotics trade fuels the “mainland” – the island of Saint Vincent – just nine miles north.
There’s a tiny airport on the island – small carrier SVG Air lands there – but the simplest way to arrive is to fly into Saint Vincent and catch one of the regular ferries.
LIAT is your best bet for decent prices; try connecting in Barbados, a hub that receives daily flights from the US, Canada, and the UK, or in Trinidad.
A taxi from the airport to the ferry terminal should cost 25 Eastern Caribbean dollars (EC$), and a one-way ferry ticket costs another EC$20. (The EC$ is pegged at $2.75 to the US dollar – good news for Americans!)
Ferries run regularly on weekdays and are much less frequent on weekends; check the online schedules, but ask around when you arrive or call ahead as they aren’t always reliable.
Food and Shelter
Most of Bequia’s accommodation options – chiefly simple guesthouses and small boutique hotels – are clustered around the edges of Port Elizabeth, the tiny town in Admiralty Bay where the ferry docks.
Good news for solo travelers: many of these hotels offer reduced single-occupancy rates on double rooms.
The best bargain on the island is The Frangipani, on the Belmont Walkway, which offers five “original rooms” on the second floor of an old house. Pricier air-con cabins with en-suite bath are out back, but the simple rooms, equipped with mosquito nets, fans, and sea breezes, are all you need.
The Frangi is gorgeous, with friendly staff, an excellent restaurant and an outdoor bar/patio with occasional live music.
Isola and Julie’s Guest House, directly across from the ferry jetty, is a simple budget option with a loyal following. For total isolation, check out the Crescent Beach Inn, on Industry Bay. Bear in mind that you’ll be a longish walk from most eating options, though.
If you have a group, inquire with the tourist authorities about apartment and villa rentals. You can save a lot of cash on Bequia by self-catering; stock up on groceries at Food City, next to the ferry terminal in Saint Vincent, before coming across to the island.
There’s a string of restaurants and bars along Port Elizabeth’s Belmont Walkway, a beach-front stone path that runs along the south side of Admiralty Bay. Most have affordable lunches and pricier dinners; The Green Boley is an exception, where even at dinner you can get filling plates of local specialties like conch curry for between EC$30 and EC$40.
Try The Porthole for lunch, where rotis go for around EC$12 or, further afield on Lower Bay, Dawn’s Café for cheap sandwiches.
In Port Elizabeth itself, Maria’s has sandwiches and snacks, internet terminals, and long hours. Most places have a daily special – some variation on seafood and rice – that will give you good value.
Bequia’s handful of giftshops is centered around the ferry dock. There’s also a small produce market there, and across the street is an ATM and a post office. The Bequia Technology center (follow the “Digicel” sign) next to Maria’s has comparable prices for internet, but better machines and air-con.
Be aware that almost everything shuts down on Sundays; hotel restaurants will be virtually the only places open, and they are welcoming to non-guests.
Hit the Beach
The secret to Bequia’s success is Admiralty Bay, where yachties from around the world drop anchor. It’s the traffic from these yachts that keeps the restaurants and bars running – you’ll see rubber dingies zooming in from across the bay at sundown – while simultaneously keeping Bequia’s beaches completely undeveloped. Yachters, after all, do not require hotel complexes.
Start with the amenity-free, local-frequented Princess Margaret Beach, clearly signposted from the main road leading south out of Port Elizabeth. The next beach over is Lower Bay, which – thanks to a couple of sleepy cafes and a handful of lounge chairs for rent – is the closest thing to a “developed” beach that you’ll find on the island. (Cancun it ain’t.)
On the south side of the island, Friendship Bay is where Bequia’s only higher-end accommodation is located; at the time of writing, construction was underway there, too. Funnily enough, it’s one of the less attractive spots on the island, so it’s no huge loss – still worth a visit for the views on the way there, though.
North east of Port Elizabeth you’ll find Industry Bay, Spring Bay, and Park Bay – where you may be lucky enough to stumble on a local BBQ. Be sure to check out the Turtle Sanctuary while you’re here. It’s on the water between Spring and Park bays.
Bequia was a major whaling center back in the day, and islanders are still permitted to hunt two whales per year in honor of this heritage. The hunt – which isn’t always successful – occurs each January and is a major occasion. The island also hosts a regatta every Easter. You’ll find a couple of small museums dedicated to Bequia’s whaling and ship-building heritage scattered around the island.
The Bottom Line
I could go on about that artist’s studio in the hills, or this model boat shop in town, but the key to Bequia is to simply get out and walk, and discover its treasures for yourself. The island is safe, compact, and enjoys perfect weather pretty well year round.
So take a walk. Take a nap on the beach. Drink a papaya juice and watch the sun go down. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like paradise to me.
For more information on Bequia, check out Eva’s blog ‘Smitten in the Grenadines’. For other guides to chill Caribbean islands, check out Tony Gatti’s pieces on Tortola and Jost van Dyke, or Anna Brones’ lovely guide to Dominica.
Matador blogger Julie can tell you all about her favorite islands, including Vieques and Cuba.
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