WHY WE LOVE IT
- Remote and therefore utterly unspoiled, this chain of islands is no longer just for the rich and famous
- Variety: Lush St. Vincent, sleepy Bequia, jet-set Mustique, the uninhabited Tobago Cays, and wee-sized Mayreau
- One-of-a-kind resorts like the classic Petit St. Vincent and the newly opened Raffles, Canouan
- Good buys: scrimshaw from Bequia Bookshop; pandana baskets from Wallilabou Crafts Co-op; colonial collectibles from Basil's at Villa, St. Vincent; Mustique Blues Festival CDs
WHEN TO GO
December to April is high season. Seek bargains in May and November, but beware of June to October—though it's south of the hurricane belt, St. Vincent has lots of rain. The Grenadines are drier.
BASIL'S BAR AND RESTAURANT
The most surprising thing about this famous bar is how modest it actually is—just a large deck on stilts overlooking the water. The appetizing menu of simple West Indian food has nourished an international crowd for years. Best experienced at twilight, with a drink in hand. Remember that staring is rude, even when superstars are involved.
L'AUBERGE DES GRENADINES
A burnt-orange-painted, gingerbread-fringed terrace overlooking the water makes the perfect setting for a lobster dinner. (Don't bother with the menu: Lobster, plucked live from the pool, is the essential order.) The French owner, Jacques Thevenot, takes credit for the Gallic-inflected cuisine.
THE OLD FORT
Nestled high above the palm tops in a romantic plantation house, the Old Fort serves French-Caribbean dishes beneath historic stone arches with panoramic views of half the Grenadines. The on-site farm supplies eggs and produce; fresh breads are baked on the premises, too.
LE PETIT JARDIN
Back St., Port Elizabeth
Bequia-born chef Owen Belmar, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, gave up cooking on superyachts to follow his dream of opening his own restaurant. The name is precise: French-Caribbean food is served in a gorgeous, shady little garden.
BASIL'S BAR AND RESTAURANT
Basil Charles' second-string watering hole in the capital is nothing like the original—it's indoors for a start, with A/C, stone walls, and a mahogany bar. Yachties and local movers and shakers come here to get their burger fix.
LIME N' PUB
Opposite Young Island at Villa Beach
Nab a table on the cute terrace of this British-expat watering hole for prime people-watching. Order the excellent rotis, fresh lobster, or pizza, and then kick back and absorb the scene.
This 35-acre Vincencian-owned lush hill of an island is like a mini-national park, complete with peacocks and parrots. Wood-beamed rooms have simple bamboo furniture and ocean-view terraces; the hillside suites are nicest. Being a mere three-minute ferry ride away from St. Vincent, this resort gives couples the best of both worlds: seclusion, with easy access to the mainland.
The 19th-century shingled captain's house overlooking Admiralty Harbor is a beloved family-run hotel with no airs, and even fewer mod conveniences. Couples should be warned that the hotel bar and restaurant are local hot spots; however, those craving privacy can charter the Frangipani's yacht for a romantic getaway. Splurge for the stonewalled hillside deluxe rooms.
THE OLD FORT
This 18th-century plantation house prides itself on its five stonewalled rooms that are brimming with character, and not just standard-issue luxury accoutrements. Rooms to nab: The Master Suite has impressive balconies; the Top Tower offers 360-degree views of the Grenadines; and the Honey Room was built with lovers like you in mind.
PETIT ST. VINCENT
Your privacy is paramount at this 113-acre, family-run island resort. Take your pick of 22 large stone cottages situated on landscaped hills and palm-fringed beaches. Hoist the red "don't come near us" flag for an extra dose of seclusion. When you're ready to emerge from your room, raise the yellow flag for smiley service. Tennis, watersports, great pan-Euro food, and playtime with yellow Labs included; scuba and sailing extra. Day trips can also be arranged, but trust us when we tell you that you won't want to leave this island paradise.
The 135-acre private island resort lacks the amenities, facilities, and style that many would expect from a pricey property. Its five beaches, pool, tennis courts, putting course, spa, and nature trails are fine, but nothing to write home about. What scores here is the back-to-basics anti-glamour—especially popular with frazzled urban dwellers.
The only full-service hotel on this jet-set private island has exquisite rooms just redone in an über-Caribbean, pickled-pine style inspired by the godfather of Mustique design, Oliver Messel. Must-tries include the fab new spa, weekly cocktail party, and picnic-on-a-beach service.
The Mustique Company
There is no better way to see how the other half lives than renting a luxurious, fully staffed villa on what is arguably the planet's most exclusive and beautiful island. Don't be surprised if you find yourself borrowing a cup of sugar from famous neighbors like Mick Jagger and Tommy Hilfiger—that is, unless you've rented their villa.
RAFFLES RESORT CANOUAN ISLAND
The 156-room resort, though technically not a private island, is a world unto itself. Explore the property's three beaches and 300 acres via your private golf cart. Thanks to Donald Trump, a hilltop golf club and casino is just a short hop, skip, and a jump away. Mediterranean-inspired rooms are enormous.
Barefoot Yacht Charters
Elite Island Yacht
By far the best way to see the Grenadines is from the deck of a yacht. Chartering is really the only way to take in several islands on one honeymoon. Local operators offer either bareboat or crewed boats.
This truly local market is almost devoid of made-for-cruise-passenger tchotchkes, though there are a few good arts-and-crafts stalls, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. We recommend stocking up on fresh tropical fruit, which can be hard to find on the outer islands.
Kingstown, St. Vincent
Founded in 1762, this, believe it or not, is the oldest botanical garden in the Western Hemisphere. The centerpiece is a descendant of the breadfruit tree brought by Captain Bligh on his post-mutiny voyage (the HMS Bounty had been heading here). Stop by the aviary of spectacular, and endangered, St. Vincent parrots.
THE DOCTOR CECIL CYRUS MUSEUM
Upon retiring in 2002, local physician-hero Dr. Cyrus, OBE, founded this museum of pathology to show the "clinical gold mine of cases of great diversity and grossness" he'd collected over 40 years in the form of morbid specimens and photographs. Trust us, you'll be talking about it all week.
Explore St. Vincent's amazing, lush landscape, which is almost primeval in some spots. If your time's limited, pick the Falls of Baleine (a swim in the pool is memorable) or a challenging hike to the dormant volcano La Soufrière.
One-stop shopping for, well, shopping, as well as eating and world-class "liming." This tiny fishing village, the private island's hub, has a general store, a French bakery, the purple-pink Treasure Boutiques, and, of course, Basil's Bar and Boutique.
MUSTIQUE BLUES FESTIVAL
Basil's Bar and Restaurant
For more than ten years, Mustique has been at the epicenter of the blues universe from the last week in January through the first week in February. The Festival started with a bet, and now attracts hordes—very discreet and refined hordes, that is. Proceeds go to the Educational Foundation founded by Basil Charles to help local children.