Food and Drink in St. Vincent
St. Vincent is a great place to experience local Caribbean cuisine at its best. You won't find chain restaurants there. Fresh-caught seafood and native-grown vegetables are the basis of most of the cuisine; specialties include callaloo soup (callaloo is a bit like spinach) or roti (curried beef, chicken or seafood wrapped in a very thin flour pancake).
Young Island Resort Restaurant: One of St. Vincent's only all-inclusive resorts is on a private island, but you don't have to be a guest to enjoy the fine beachfront dining at the Young Island Resort Restaurant -- just take the two-minute ferry ride from Villa Beach. Typical lunch offerings include kiwi green-lip mussels in a white wine, onion and roasted garlic herb broth, and a slow-braised pork cutlet with barbecue sauce. Don't miss the fresh-baked bread, which comes in six different varieties. Reservations are recommended. (Young Island; 784-458-4826)
High Tide Bar and Grill: Located on Villa Beach across from Young Island, the High Tide Bar and Grill is a great spot to relax and hang out by the bar. It's open all day, serving up casual West Indian fare including grilled fish sandwiches, pizza and Caribbean specialties. (Villa Beach; 784-456-6777; open Tuesday to Friday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., closed Monday)
Bay Beach Club: The casual Bay Beach Club at Buccament Bay Resort serves Caribbean dishes for lunch dinner. Save room for an island-inspired dessert, like the pineapple skillet cake. (784-457-4100; open daily, 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for dinner)
Chill'n: This casual spot in downtown Kingstown attracts local businesspeople in search of a quick, tasty lunch of burgers, pizza and roti. For cruisers in search of a connection, there's free WiFi and charging stations. (Egmont Street, Kingstown; 784-456-1776; open Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., closed Sunday)
Basil's: An offshoot of the well-known bar/restaurant on Mustique, Basil's serves island staples such as coconut shrimp and stuffed crab. It's in a 200-year-old sugar warehouse whose brick walls are adorned with paintings by local artists. In the same building, the rooftop restaurant of the Cobblestone Inn serves light fare. It's a good place to cool off with a drink with a front-row seat of Kingstown's busy street life. (Bay Street, Kingstown; 784-457-2713; open daily, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Wallilabou Bay Hotel: Cheap eats and scenic sea views are on tap at the Wallilabou Bay Hotel, which overlooks the bay where part of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" was filmed. The food isn't fancy -- just sandwiches, West Indian fare and the occasional lobster dish -- but it's tasty and served in a fun, casual atmosphere. (Wallilabou Bay; 784-458-7270)
Beaches in St. Vincent
Best for a Half-Day Visit: The black sand beach at Buccament Bay is just 20 minutes from Kingstown, and its calm waters make it a good spot for swimming.
Best for Active Types: Villa Beach may not have much sand, but it does have a number of waterfront restaurants and shops, as well as folks coming and going by sailboat and ferry. You can go snorkeling, swimming, shopping or people watching, or just join the locals for a spot of "liming" (a Caribbean term for relaxing or hanging out).
Best for Dramatic Scenery: The beaches on the windward coast of St. Vincent aren't safe for swimming -- the surf is too strong -- but they provide some of the island's most spectacular views. The pounding waves at Argyle Beach make this long, black sand beach a particular favorite for picnicking and sunbathing.
Don't Miss in St. Vincent
Downtown Kingstown: This colorful and chaotic area offers an intriguing glimpse of local culture, but relatively few attractions for tourists. There are a handful of souvenir shops on Bay Street, the main drag, but livelier shopping can be found in the outdoor market on the waterfront, where locals hawk everything from fruit and vegetables to Colgate toothpaste. The three-story Kingstown Produce Market is another hub of shopping activity. At the west end of Kingstown are a few pretty churches.
Botanical Garden: Just a short cab ride (or 30-minute walk uphill) from downtown Kingstown is the Botanical Garden, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Founded in the 1760s, this 20-acre garden is a serene retreat for visitors and locals alike. You can catch a glimpse of the island's rare St. Vincent parrots in the small aviary, and wander among vibrant blooms and towering trees -- some over 200 years old. Admission is free, though guides are available for a small charge. Note that some of the guides are quite eager, so be firm if you'd rather tour the gardens on your own.
Fort Charlotte: For dramatic views of Kingstown and the sea beyond, take a cab to Fort Charlotte. This 19th-century fortress, named after the wife of King George III, now houses a museum dedicated to the island's history, with a focus on the Black Caribs.
Mesopotamia Valley: Take a scenic drive through the lush Mesopotamia Valley, also known as "Mespo" or the Marriaqua Valley. Narrow roads wind up and down steep, verdant hills blanketed by acres of banana and coconut trees. Nestled deep in the valley are the Montreal Gardens (748-458-1198; open December to August), home to nearly eight acres of bougainvillea, anthurium, frangipani and other tropical flora.
The Falls of Baleine: Located at the far northwest corner of the island, the falls are some of St. Vincent's remote treasures. You can only reach them by boat, so book your ship's shore excursion or hire a local to take you up along St. Vincent's scenic leeward coast. Once you land in Baleine Bay, you'll make a quick hike to the 60-foot falls, where you can go for a refreshing swim.
Scuba Diving: The lack of development on St. Vincent means that its underwater world is as untouched as its hills and forests. Indigo Dive and Dive St. Vincent offer diving and snorkeling trips to see the coral reefs that fringe the island. The best diving is generally found between Layou and Kingstown on St. Vincent's leeward coast, where the water is calm and there are lovely coral formations only a short distance off the shore.
Wallilabou Bay: Loved the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: Cruise of the Black Pearl"? Part of it was filmed on the leeward coast of St. Vincent at Wallilabou Bay. Movie sets were damaged by Hurricane Tomas in 2010, but some props remain. You can swim or sun yourself on the beach there, or go inland for a quick dip in the Wallilabou Falls. Along the drive from Kingstown, it's worth a stop to see the Carib petroglyphs (rock carvings) in Buccament or Barrouallie; ask a local for exact directions if you're driving, or have your cab driver take you there.
Vermont Nature Trails: To get up close and personal with St. Vincent's lush landscape and unique wildlife, head north of Kingstown to the Vermont Nature Trails. These paths will lead you on a two-hour hike through tropical rainforests and evergreen groves, where there are ample opportunities for bird watching. Keep your eyes peeled for the national bird, the St. Vincent parrot.
Visit Bequia: Hop a ferry to the island of Bequia. Admiralty Transport (784-458-3348) and Bequia Express (784-458-3472) offer frequent service between Kingstown and this largest island in the Grenadines, where you'll find golden beaches and lively waterfront shops and cafes in the tiny capital city of Port Elizabeth. The ferry takes about an hour each way.