The two things you’ll notice almost immediately when you land on the island of Bequia are that you’re probably mispronouncing the name (it’s “Bek-way”), and that you’ve just found possibly the friendliest people in the West Indies. The largest of the Grenadine Isles, Bequia has a charm that’s layered. Each successive visit reveals a fresh surprise—a tour with a friendly local, a beautiful beach or a breathtaking view—which is why I continually find myself figuring out ways to return to this little-hidden gem of the Caribbean.
Bequia is the largest of the Grenadines, a chain of “picture postcard” islands that lies in a curved line between St. Vincent and Grenada. Bequia’s English-speaking population makes you feel immediately welcome, whether you sail there on a charter boat or come down from St. Vincent by ferry. We arrived on our first visit via our Dream Yacht Charter catamaran, caught a mooring and dinghied to town.
The shopping in Port Elizabeth is colorful—literally. Bright T-shirts flap in the breeze outside tiny gift shops painted pink or green or yellow. Street vendors offer everything from luscious tropical fruits to locally crafted jewelry and toy boats carved from coconuts. A 30-minute stroll down along the waterfront is like window shopping for the perfect lunch spot. If you start at the custom’s house and continue along Front Street, you’ll first pass Pizza Hut (in no way resembling the U.S. chain), Maria’s French Terrace and Sweety Bird at the Bequia bookstore. Continue onto the Belmont Walkway which is a stone path lapped by the waves of Admiralty Bay and you will find the Whaleboner Bar has furniture made, entirely, of whale vertebrae. If that makes you uneasy, stop in at Mac’s for great pizza with a view.
If you haven’t blown your budget on rum cocktails by now, you may want to visit Mauvin’s Boat Shop, which has exquisitely carved and wonderfully detailed models of authentic local watercraft. These boats are pricier than their coconut cousins, but each is a work of art, and Mauvin will ship one anywhere in the world for you.
Seeing the rest of this seven-square-mile island is a must and doing it via one of the local “taxis” is priceless. We caught our first ride with Sally, who said she gives her van a brake job every year. After experiencing the rollercoaster roads of the island, I didn’t doubt it.
Sally took us to the windward side to meet Orton “Brother” King who has spent over 20 years tending to Bequia’s Hawksbill albino turtles, rearing hatchlings in small pools at his farm until they’re old enough to survive on their own. Who knew there were albino turtles? I also learned that a turtle can feel a good back scratching through its shell; in fact, a happy turtle will splash about and even make eye contact for as long as you care to do the scratching.
Excellent beaches on both the leeward and windward sides provide warm water, good snorkeling and plenty of palm trees under which to laze away the days with a good book. Great hiking can also be found up to Mount Peasant or to Peggy’s Rock on a mountain ridge overlooking the spectacular, yacht-filled bay.
Bequia is deeper south in the Caribbean in what are the Windward Islands and is only a two-hour sail or a 40-minute ferry ride from the main island of St. Vincent. Admiralty Bay provides plenty of shallow-water anchoring or you can catch a mooring off the town beach. The Grenadines have a “boat boy” culture where men and women come out in their small boats to assist charter boats and private yachts with everything from hooking up to a mooring ball to delivering ice or fresh baked banana bread and croissants in the morning. They’re the quintessential entrepreneurs, and you will quickly learn that if you take care of them with tips, they’ll take care of just about everything else.
We left Bequia to explore other islands. The Grenadines form one country with St. Vincent, so once you’re checked in (after sailing from Grenada or St. Lucia) there’s no need for another visit to officialdom. One morning, on my second stop at Bequia, I was tucking into a warm buttery croissant on deck while the charter guests slept in and devising a way to come back, even before I had left. Wiping my greasy hands on my shorts, I checked the anchor, took in the sunrise and vowed to return soon, even if only to scratch a turtle’s back.
There are numerous charter companies and sailing schools in the area of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Some are located in Grenada so you can sail north first before turning around or, with prior arrangements, even catch a one-way charter up or down the Grenadines chain.
Horizon Yacht Charters horizonyachtcharters.com
The Moorings moorings.com
Dream Yacht Charter dreamyachtcharter.com
Barefoot Yacht Charters barefootyachts.com
Tropical Yachts tropicalyachts.com
LTD Sailing School ltdsailing.com