Island Hopping in the Grenadines

Tobago Cays
Union Island

Think dozens of different shades of turquoise. Think crystal clear waters and white, powdery beaches. Think extensive coral reefs with colourful fish and friendly turtles. Think deserted lagoons and pristine mangrove forests. Think sleepy villages and quaint, colourful houses. Think sail boats bobbing up and down in picturesque bays and super yachts gliding through gentle waves.

What do you see? The Grenadines, of course!

St. Vincent as seen from Bequia
Tobago Cays

What Are the Grenadines?

The Grenadines is the name given for a chain of 35 small islands that stretch approximately 90 kilometres (56 miles) between the bigger islands of Grenada (in the South) and St. Vincent (in the North) in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean.

Nine of the Grenadine islands have permanent settlements: Carriacou, Petite Martinique, Petit St. Vincent, Union Island, Palm Island, Mayreau, Canouan, Mustique and Bequia. The largest of these have towns, marinas and communities with public infrastructure, while some of the smaller ones are privately-owned resort islands.

Union Island and Carriacou

The Grenadines offer dazzling natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, including big drum dancing, traditional boat building, colourful festivals and some interesting colonial ruins. In addition, the people are friendly, the rum is flowing and the sun is shining. This is the best of all the Caribbean, Bunny says!

How to Get There

You can fly directly into Argyle International Airport in St. Vincent or Maurice Bishop International Airport in Grenada. Both are good hubs for starting your Grenadines journey. Many people also fly to Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados and make their way from there to the Grenadines on “island hopper” regional flights.

Maurice Bishop International Airport

There are smaller airports in Carriacou, Union Island, Canouan, Mustique and Bequia. Airlines such as LIAT, Caribbean Airlines, Mustique Airways and SVG Air offer regional flights to these airports. Please note that some of these airports can accommodate day-time flights only as their runways are not fitted with lights.

Practicalities

Once you get there, the Grenadines is relatively easy to explore. It is a safe destination. People speak English (sometimes with a dialect that can take time to get used to). The currency throughout the Grenadines is the East Caribbean Dollar (EC$ or XCD$ for short) which is pegged to the US dollar at the fixed rate of USD$1 = EC$2.70.

As the Grenadines are divided between two independent nations: ‘Grenada’ and ‘St. Vincent and the Grenadines’, you will need to clear customs and immigration when traveling from one country to another. Visas are required from nationals of handful of countries only. Please note that the name of the country ‘St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ is often shortened to “SVG”.

Beautiful beach in Mayreau

The weather in the Grenadines is nearly ideal, with year-round temperatures between 24-31 degrees Celsius. The dry season usually runs from Christmas to May and the rainy season from June to December. The rainy season coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season but the Grenadines lie south of the hurricane belt and are rarely impacted. The distinction between the dry and rainy season has blurred in recent years and you are likely to get short showers year round, with plenty of sunshine in the meanwhile.

Beer Bunny
Tropical paradise

Island Hopping

Island hopping in the Grenadines is the best way to see the region. A wonderful, albeit an expensive, way of touring the Grenadines is to charter a sailboat or a catamaran. The Grenadines has been rated one of the best sailing destinations in the world. Check Bunny’s blog post about chartering a boat here.

If chartering is out of your budget, you can also explore the Grenadines independently, using ferries and/or regional flights for island hopping. This requires a little bit of time, patience and an adventurous attitude, but the rewards are well worth it.

Small island carnival fun
Sailing in the Grenadines

Ferries in the Grenadines

Bequia Express and Admiral Ferries have daily ferry services between St. Vincent and Bequia, the Northernmost island of the Grenadines and a common starting point. The travel time is around one hour. The “fast ferry” Jaden Sun travels between St. Vincent and Union Island a couple of times a week. It also stops in Bequia, Canouan and Mayreau.

Mustique Ferry (cargo) runs between St. Vincent and Mustique a couple of times a week.

M/V Gem Star travels between St. Vincent and Union Island twice a week.

Port Elizabeth, Bequia
The Grenadines by boat

Water taxis are also very handy, particularly from Union Island or Mayreau to Tobago Cays. A water taxi may also be needed between Union Island and Carriacou, the Southernmost island of the Grenadines and a common ending point. Lambi Queen Tours in Carriacou is a good option to arrange your transfer and the necessary paperwork. If you are lucky, you might also catch the Union Ferry Pride Boat, which currently runs between Union Island and Carriacou on Mondays and Fridays. Petit Martinique can be easily visited from the shores of Windward in Carriacou. Chez Charmagne operates daily (Monday-Friday) between the two islands and the trip takes just 10-15 minutes.

If you are looking to continue onwards from Carriacou to Grenada, there are three ferry options to choose from: Osprey Ferry, Dolly C and Tyrrel Bay Express. The travel time varies between 2-3,5 hours. Please note that there is currently no ferry service to Grenada on Sundays. 

Ferry times vary and can change frequently, so it is always best to contact them ahead of time when making plans for island hopping.

Ferry between Carriacou and Grenada

Bequia

If Bunny had to pick just one island to visit in the Grenadines, it would probably be Bequia. Bequia is the second largest of the Grenadine islands and perhaps the most attractive and accessible for tourists. Bequia has managed to perfectly retain the charm of the old Caribbean, with a lovely, laid-back atmosphere.

The best beach on the island
Sunset in the Grenadines

There is a great selection of hotels, Airbnbs and holiday villas to choose from. Bequia also has a good variety of restaurants, superb beaches, great hiking (check out Ma Peggy!) and spectacular scenery. Touring the island on the famous open-backed pickup truck taxis is always fun. You can easily spend a week or more in Bequia. Bequia also makes a good base for visiting some the neighbouring islands on various day trips, such as Mustique and Tobago Cays.

Scenery on the East coast of Bequia
The best hike in Bequia

Where to Stay

Try Keegan’s for cheap and cheerful beachside fun on the Lower Bay or go for Bequia Beach Hotel in Friendship for an indulgent holiday.

Mustique

Mustique is a small, private island frequented by royals, celebrities and top executives. It is very much an exclusive retreat for those who can afford it. Bunny cannot, so she visited on a day trip from Bequia.

Old schooner in Bequia
Mustique beach

The classy way of visiting Mustique is onboard Friendship Rose, a wonderful old schooner that makes day trips from Bequia and back. However, please note that much of Mustique remains closed for day-trippers and the security is notoriously tight (and often rude). Mustique’s wealthy residents prefer to hide behind their gated mansions and only occasionally scoot around in their golf carts.

Visitors are left with organised island taxi tours which give you only a glimpse of the island, including the famous Macaroni Beach. You can also slurp up cocktails at Basil’s bar and snorkel with turtles just offshore from it. Other than that, there’s not much to do. Bunny thinks there are much better islands in the Grenadines. Let the rich have Mustique, she says.

Mustique's most famous bar
Mustique beach

Where to Stay

Your options are quite limited if you’re not friends with one of the villa owners. Try The Cotton House if you are determined to spend a night (or two) in Mustique.

Canouan

If you thought Mustique was posh, just wait for “the island of tortoises” - Canouan. It has been described as a place “where billionaires come to escape millionaires”. Yep. This is a place for you if you have a lot of extra change in your pocket.

Half of the island is owned by private investors, the über rich, while the dwindling local community lives in a single remaining village. But at least Canouan is a real island, compared to Mustique.

Island of millionaires
Canouan in the background

For starters, there’s a world class marina, Sandy Lane, and plenty of super yachts hanging about in Canouan. There are also designer shops, fancy dining, a golf course, luxury spas and more. But the best things about Canouan, if you ask Bunny, are the surrounding coral reefs and powdery beaches. Those have not yet been claimed by the oligarchs so enjoy them while you can.

Where to Stay

The all-suite Mandarin Oriental is fabulous, and fabulously expensive to match. There are also a handful of Airbnbs for anyone wanting to explore Canouan on a reasonable budget.

Mayreau

Mayreau is one of Bunny’s personal favourites in the Grenadines. It is a sleepy little island, the smallest of the inhabited islands in the Grenadines, with a population of a mere 300 people. It has a couple of accommodation options, stunning beaches, a stone built Catholic Church with views over Tobago Cays and some colourful rum bars.

It is easy to walk across the whole island, from the beautiful Saline Bay all the way to Salt Whistle Bay - one of the most gorgeous bays in all of the Caribbean. If you happen to visit Salt Whistle Bay on a quiet day, you’re in for a real treat, Bunny says.

Perfect beach in Mayreau

Mayreau is part of the Tobago Cays Marine Park and one of the best places from which to organise boat trips there. The only way to get to Mayreau itself is by boat and Bunny hopes it will stay that way. 

Where to Stay

Stay in the new Mayreau Beach Club if you want to indulge yourself. It has lovely accommodation, a fabulous three-layered swimming pool and a superb beach.

Fabulous beach club in Mayreau

Tobago Cays

Tobago Cays is a magical place with picture-perfect tropical looks and an abundance of marine life. It is a Marine Park that includes five uninhabited islands and extensive coral reefs. The protected waters have created a safe haven where you can swim with wild turtles. This is an unforgettable experience.

Amazing turquoise in Tobago Cays

Tobago Cays is a very popular day trip destination. There is no accommodation so your only way of spending the night is on a boat. Tobago Cays is a real yachting paradise so there are always plenty of sailboats and catamarans hanging about. Sometimes even small cruise ships drop by. Those days are best avoided.

Tobago Cays is not called the crown of the Grenadines for nothing, Bunny says. Read more about the Cays in her blog post.

Tobago Cays
Tobago Cays

Palm Island

Palm Island is a private resort island in the Grenadines. It’s a tiny tropical paradise, surrounded by white sand beaches, turquoise waters and, you guessed it, full of picturesque coconut palms.

Palm Island is just a mile (2.2 km) from Union Island and accessible only by boat so it offers a perfect, easy to get to hideaway for wealthy holidaymakers. Palm Island Resort is the exclusive, highly-rated hotel on Palm Island. Non-guests can visit the beach but the rest of the island remains off-limits for those who cannot afford its real estate.

PSV, Palm Island and Mayreau

Union Island

Union Island is a slightly under appreciated travel gem in the Grenadines. It has served mainly as a seafaring travel hub for the Grenadines but it has surprisingly a lot to offer for travellers who decide to stay longer.

Frigate Island
Bunny at Union Island

Union Island has beautiful beaches, gorgeous scenery, some great hiking and charming villages. In recent years, it has evolved into a kitesurfing paradise, with plenty of kite surfers taking advantage of the incredible scenery and constant winds during the winter season. Union Island offers a good range of accommodation, from Airbnbs to some great hotels. The main street in Clifton has cute cafes and restaurants, and the vibe of the whole island is decidedly laid-back.

Where to Stay

David’s Beach Hotel has beachfront rooms in a secluded bay with turquoise water. Plus, great food and cocktails are located right next door at Sparrow Beach Club.

David's Beach Hotel

What about Happy Island?

Who wouldn’t want to visit a place called Happy Island? Well, Bunny for starters. She is not a fan of this small, man-made conch shell island that is located just off the coast of Union Island. Although the original story and idea behind the island were quite charming, it has become a tourist trap with opaque prices that match those of the Maldives when the bill comes.

Petit St. Vincent

Petit St. Vincent (or PSV for short) is another privately owned piece of paradise in the Grenadines. Surrounded by turquoise waters and white sand beaches, the island’s only resort, Petit St. Vincenthas all the trappings you would expect from an exclusive island getaway. It has a handful of luxurious cottages, an army of butlers and prices to boot.

Petit St Vincent

If you are planning to visit Petit St. Vincent as a non-guest, beware that the new management has imposed a 100 USD “island access fee” per person, even though all beaches in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are public by law… Hmph, shame on them, Bunny says.

Beach on PSV
Clear and beautiful water at PSV

Mopion

The charming Mopion is allegedly the smallest island in the Caribbean. It is really more of a sand bar than an island, but it’s super cute. It has a lone beach umbrella stacked on a pile of sand in the middle of crystal clear, turquoise waters.

The smallest island in the Caribbean

Visiting Mopion doesn’t require a lot of time or effort. Many fisherman on nearby Petite Martinique can easily drop you off, give you some time to splash or snorkel around and take perfect Instagram shots on your private tropical island, before whisking you back a few hours later. Highly recommended by Bunny!

Petite Martinique

Petite Martinique (or PM for short) is the smallest of the three islands that make up the tri-island country of Grenada. PM is a collection of quaint little villages, inhabited mostly by fisherman and boatbuilders. It is the least touristy of the Grenadine islands, but worth a visit if you want to experience authentic, traditional Caribbean lifestyle. There are only a handful of cars but plenty of goats and sheep wander around the charming villages.

Quaint Petite Martinique

In addition, there is a great hiking trail up its highest peak, The Piton, and easy boat trips to nearby Mopion and PSV. Read more on Bunny’s blog post about visiting Petite Martinique.

Where to Stay

Petite Martinique doesn’t have any hotels but there are a couple of AirBnBs. Millennium Connection Guest House is the best of the lot, with great location and a friendly owner.

Carriacou

Last but not least of the Grenadines island chain (from North to South) is the true hidden gem of the Caribbean: Bunny’s home island of Carriacou - the land of reefs.

Gun Point in Carriacou
Carriacou's port

Carriacou is an authentic Caribbean island, with friendly people, gorgeous beaches and affordable accommodation. You can “lime” (relax) on the picture perfect beaches, visit Sandy Island (Bunny’s happy place!), hike to the peak of High North, snorkel with turtles at Saline Island, enjoy a beach BBQ at secluded Anse la Roche, do an island tour and marvel at the views from practically anywhere and even check out the traditional boat building skills on the island.

Carriacou

There is a reason why Bunny decided to make Carriacou her home and build her residence: It is simply the best.

Where to Stay

Check out Bunny’s blog post about accommodation options in Carriacou. And stay tuned for Bunny’s own Airbnb - hopefully to open later this year!

Conclusions

The Grenadines is not (yet) widely known as an ideal, unspoiled Caribbean vacation destination but Bunny is certain that some day it will be. Come visit before the hordes discover this tropical paradise, she says.

Sail boats in Bequia
Mangroves of Union Island

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