Part of the 32-island nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Bequia (pronounced Beckway) is simply one of the most delightful spots in the Caribbean you can visit on a cruise ship. Covering just seven square miles and with a population of around 5,000, the hilly and verdant S-shaped squiggle has a picturesque natural harbour, unspoiled golden-sand beaches and a wonderfully laid-back atmosphere.
Cruise port location
Cruise ships anchor in yacht-filled Friendship Bay, that ever-so photogenic natural harbour. Tenders take guests to a jetty in Port Elizabeth, the island’s villagey capital at the head of the bay.
In recent years Bequia has appeared on more cruise lines’ itineraries. However, it’s still rare for there to be more than a single ship visiting on any given day, and most ships are of the small-scale, more upmarket variety, with lines such as Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea, Star Clippers and Windstar. Mainstream Marella Cruises also visits Bequia.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
Yes, very much so. You can potter around Port Elizabeth, and from the jetty it’s just a few minutes’ stroll to the waterfront bars, cafés and restaurants along the Belmont Walkway. From the far end of the walkway a path over and around the headland soon brings you to Princess Margaret Beach, arguably the best on the island; continue walking over the ridge at the far end and you come to Lower Bay, another glorious long beach.
If you don’t want to walk to Princess Margaret Beach or Lower Bay, the best alternative is to take an inexpensive ride in a water taxi; boatmen tout for business along Port Elizabeth’s waterfront and the Belmont Walkway. Land-based taxis take the distinctive form of open-backed pick-up vehicles, and can be booked for island tours as well as getting from A to B – either way, fix the rate before setting off. The cheapest way to travel is squeezed in with locals in ‘dollar vans’, but they don’t go to many parts of the island.
What to see and do
Bequia is a port of call where you might want to spend the day pottering around at your own pace, lapping up the chilled atmosphere, hanging out at a bar or two and or on the beaches. If you decide you want to explore, you can see pretty much everything in a few hours. Boat trips are also popular excursions.
What can I do in four hours or less?
Have a wander around Port Elizabeth, then hit the beach. Three stand out. Princess Margaret Beach (the queen’s sister once swam there), the closest to Port Elizabeth, is an unspoiled, 500-yard stretch of golden sand fringed by cedar and almond trees. The longer tranche of sand of Lower Bay has a few often lively beach bars. Friendship Bay, a seven-minute taxi ride from Port Elizabeth, is another gorgeous beach, and home to the elegant Bequia Beach Hotel. Do pop in to the Bequia Heritage Museum overlooking Friendship Bay at St Hilaire Point. It provides in-depth insight into the island’s history from Amerindian times to the present day, including its important boat-building and whaling heritage.
Island tours are offered by all the cruise lines, but arguably you’ll do just as well to take a private tour in a taxi. Stops normally include Hamilton Fort, a colonial-era lookout with knockout views over Admiralty Bay, and Mount Pleasant, for panoramic vistas over the southern Grenadines. Tours also head up to the north of the island past former plantations to Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, where baby Hawksbill turtles are nurtured before being released back into the sea. Silversea offers a half-day of hiking on forest trails combined with a visit to the turtle sanctuary.
All the cruise lines, including Marella, Seabourn, Star Clippers and Windstar, offer boat tours of around 2.5-3.5 hours along Bequia’s coast. The tours usually pass Moonhole, where homes have been fashioned out of the rocks, and stops are scheduled for snorkelling and sometimes a beach visit.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
You could spend the best part of the day on another island, though given Bequia is so lovely in some ways that would be a shame. Marella, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea and Windstar offer trips across to Mustique. The exclusive little Grenadines isle beloved by British royalty and celebrities is about 45 minutes from Bequia by power boat.
Silversea also offers trips to the country’s rugged main island of St Vincent (50 minutes by boat from Bequia), taking in a colonial fort, historic petroglyphs and waterfalls.
You could also go diving off Bequia. There are a couple of diving operators on the Belmont Walkway, and some cruise lines offer diving packages.
Bear in mind that some cruise lines sometimes stay anchored in Admiralty Bay until late in the evening, or, in the case of SeaDream, overnight.
Eat and drink
The place to head for is the Belmont Walkway, a waterside strip of bars, cafés and restaurants overlooking yacht-filled Admiralty Bay. Options here include the venerable Frangipani for local Hairoun beer and rum punches, the Gingerbread for home-made cakes and ice-cream, and Mac’s for excellent pizzas (including with lobster). Princess Margaret Beach has a stylish beachfront bar/restaurant, Jack’s.
Don’t leave the island without…
Port Elizabeth has couple of shops selling exquisite, hand-made model boats. Stalls and shops on the waterfront street also sell island-made art, textiles and ceramics.
Need to know
Most straightforward way to get to Bequia from the UK is flying to Barbados with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, then with SVG Air on a small plane on to the island’s tiny airport. The journey can be done in a day.
The tourist office for the Bequia Tourism Association is at the end of the main jetty in the centre of Port Elizabeth.
Bequia is one of the safest ports of call in the Caribbean.
Best time to go
Cruise ships visit Bequia from November to April, when the weather in the Caribbean is generally best (driest and least humid). Popular annual events include the Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest late January/early February and the Easter Regatta.
The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar. You can also pay for things with US dollars, though you’ll be given change in local currency. Cash machines in Port Elizabeth issue EC dollars.
Source: Telegraph Travels