Bequia is so attractive as an Island because it is large enough to have sufficient amenities to have fun on,
but not so large as to be adversely affected by tourism. On Bequia one takes a step out of the hectic pace of
the world, the pace of life is slower and there is time to savour this charming island, rich in tranquility and tropical atmosphere.
Bequia is a favourite for yachtsmen due to its favourable trade winds. It is friendly and relatively undeveloped, with unspoilt scenery and secluded beaches. Port Elizabeth contains everyday shopping and local markets. Small hotels, restaurants and bars are scattered throughout the Island, along with some private rental houses, several dive shops, sailing and motor boats for hire and charter.
Christmas and Easter are the main holiday seasons, with a well known sailing regatta, a jazz festival and a carnival.
Nearby are the islands of St. Vincent with its fascinating volcano and tropical rain forests, Mustique with its glamour and superb beaches, Canouan with its Donald Trump inspired golf course and the Tobago Cays, a world famous heritage site. All are within a short boat trip.
The island of Bequia is part of the country of Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, an archipelago of 32 islands and islets situated towards the southern end of the Caribbean island chain. The Grenadines stretch for approximately 40 miles between the islands of St Vincent and Petit St Vincent. Bequia lies 9 miles south of the capital island, St. Vincent, and is the largest of the Grenadine islands, but still only 7 square miles with around 5,000 friendly inhabitants.
‘Bequia, the tiny island with a big heart’
Bequia has no big hotels or golf courses, just secluded beaches, and a variety of small bars and restaurants. It is friendly, relatively undeveloped, with unspoilt scenery.
Despite its size and relative lack of development the island is lively and thriving. There are plenty of shops in Port Elizabeth including banking and internet facilities along with small hotels, restaurants and bars. Scattered throughout the Island there are private rental villas, massage and beauty facilities, two dive shops, sailing and motor boats for hire and charter, an internationally famous Sailing Regatta and annual Music Festival and regular live music at many of the island restaurants.
Nearby are the islands of St. Vincent with its imposing volcano and verdant interio rain forest, Mustique with its glamour and superb beaches, Canouan with its Donald Trump inspired golf course and resort, as well as the world famous heritage site of the Tobago Cays, a snorkelers paradise. All are within an easy boat ride.
There are numerous open taxis which can be summoned by telephone or found under the Almond Tree in Port Elizabeth as well as water taxis for trips to beaches. In addition there are several car hire firms.
The beaches of Bequia are often secluded; all are clean and uncrowded. Some have one or two low key bars or restaurants. The waters are perfect for swimming, snorkelling, sailing, diving, and other water sports. On the west side of the island (the leeward / Caribbean) waters are calmer, although several windward beaches are protected by a massive coral reed.
Princess Margaret Beach is a lovely ribbon of golden sand tucked deep in Admiralty Bay, so named, after Princess Margaret enjoyed a dip there in 1958. It is only accessible by a rough, steep road or by water taxi to a newly built jetty.
Lower Bay is along from Princess Margaret Beach. This is Bequia's most expansive beach and probably its most popular due to its accessibility. There are a number of very good, and reasonably priced, bars and restaurants along its shore, making it a favourite venue both during the day and in the evening. It has very safe swimming with a natural paddling pool formed by a small coral reef at the shore’s edge.
· Princess Margaret Beach
· Lower Bay
· Friendship Bay
· Hope Bay
· Spring Bay
· Industry Bay
Friendship Bay is on the other side of the island and it is a long, south facing crescent shaped sweep of beach, great for swimming and walking, with an elegant hotel, bar and restaurant at its western end.
Hope Bay has a long, remote and picturesque beach. It is difficult to get to (only accessible by a track) but that makes it all the more exciting and secluded. It has rather shallow waters and a long line of breakers from the Atlantic Ocean which makes it very refreshing and ideal for body surfing and windsurfing, as opposed to a relaxed swim.
Spring Bay is in the fertile north of the island. The shallow beach is surrounded by the tall palm trees of the old plantation.
Industry Bay The beach at Industry is long and narrow, perfectly secluded and fringed with palms. With an unbroken coral reef several hundred yards from the shore and crystal blue waters it is a favourite for snorkelers. An old style beach bar and restaurant is there to provide refreshment.
Park Beach and Bay is further north still from Industry and is even more wild. It is home to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, a fascinating rescue and breeding programme for young turtles who are eventually released back into the sea.
Diving and Snorkelling
Two dive shops run trips to twenty-eight identified dive sites around Bequia. There are also several wrecks and shallow caves accessible to advanced divers. It is not unusual to see Hawksbill turtles, lobsters, moray eels and many kinds of fish. A natural reef lies off much of the coast line and is perfect for snorkelling. Visit www.bequiadive.com and www.bequiadiveadventures.com
Because of its constant trade winds, sailing in the Grenadines is considered to be some of the best in the world. At Christmas time Port Elizabeth is full of boats of all shapes and sizes. There are over 30 islands and cays in close proximity to each other and with its excellent natural harbour and location within the Grenadines. Bequia is extremely popular amongst cruisers and all types of yachtsmen. The annual Bequia Easter Regatta sees more than 300 boats moored in the harbour for a long weekend of sailing and competition.
The Tobago Cays are a collection of small deserted islets and cays. One of the most beautiful areas in the Caribbean this area is a protected marine park and offers outstanding snorkelling & diving.
Mustique is a famous privately owned and run island. Home to many celebrities and wealthy business persons. It also has great beaches and is perfect to visit on a day trip.
Mayreau lies just west of the Tobago Cays and is a small idyllic island with only 600 residents. It is ringed by perfect white sand beaches and is an ideal anchorage for sailing and snorkelling.
Bequians enjoy their holidays! There is the Bequia New Years’s Eve fireworks display, The Bequia Music Fest, Bequia Easter Regatta, Bequia Fishermans Day, Bequia Carnival and the famous Vincy Mas Carnival which takes place in St. Vincent.
The 'town port' of Bequia is Port Elizabeth, situated within the large natural harbour of Admiralty Bay. Other villages are scattered elsewhere on the Island. The main beaches are at Princess Margaret, Lower Bay, Friendship, Hope, Spring, Industry and Park
With a population of about 5,000 Bequians are an intriguing mix of Carib Indian, African, British and French descendents. Her history has been deeply entwined with the sea with a tradition of boat-building, fishing and whaling and Admiralty Bay remains a favourite anchorage for yachts from all over the world. It has a unique and natural charm which is hard to find elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Bequia is thankfully untouched by mass tourism and lives up to the Caribbean ideal of charming architecture, colonial history, beautiful scenery and deserted coast lines. There are no big hotels or shopping malls, just an authentic harbour town, some small hotels and guest houses, charming restaurants and beachfront bars togther with lush rainforest and secluded beaches. It is very friendly, very safe and very laid back.
Bequia’s earliest permanent inhabitants, dating back to the beginning of the first millennium AD, were small groups of pottery-making, agriculturally developed Amerindians with superb navigational skills, whose origins lay in the northern coastal regions of South America.
These indigenous people were followed into St. Vincent and Bequia by successive migrations of culturally similar groups of Amerindians for the next 1000–plus years. Around 1400 AD a culturally distinct group, the Island Caribs, took over the pre-existing population and culture.
By the late 1600s, indigenous (“Yellow”) Caribs had to a great extent merged with runaway or shipwrecked African slaves or free black inhabitants, giving rise to the so-called "Black" Caribs. So fervent was the resistance of these Caribs to European settlement that both the French and the English essentially agreed to leave the Caribs of St. Vincent and Dominica in peace, despite both countries’ desire for further colonisation of ‘new’ lands. A 1659 account of the French Antilles describes Bequia as being “too inaccessible to colonise”, and used only by Caribs from St. Vincent for fishing and for “cultivating little gardens”.
But by the early 18th century the French were showing renewed interest in the lush and fertile island of St. Vincent. After developing if not an alliance, then at least a working accord with both the Black and Yellow Caribs, the French were permitted to develop small settlements there.
Bequia and the other Grenadine islands however, were at this time considered to be part of French-owned Grenada and very much under French control. British ships were banned from setting ashore for lumber or water and French ships rigorously patrolled the Grenadine waters.
First cultivated in the early 18th century by a scattering of French smallholders from Grenada, the earliest crops on Bequia were indigo, coffee and cotton, with small scale lime, sugar and cocoa production following later. Bequia's tiny population was made up of French whites, “free coloureds”, slaves and Black Caribs. Traces of French works and roads can still be found on parts of the island, and as in St. Vincent, many locations – and indeed families – still carry French names.
The turning point in St. Vincent’s colonial history came with the cessation of hostilities between the French and British in the Seven Years War, marked in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. By this treaty, both previously ‘neutral’ St. Vincent, and the formerly French-controlled Grenadine Islands were ceded to the British, along with Grenada, Tobago, Dominica and Canada – while British-captured Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia were returned to the French. Although interrupted briefly by a short-lived French seizure of St. Vincent in 1779, the long period of British settlement, colonisation and control of St. Vincent & the Grenadines had now truly begun.
On Bequia, whilst the existing French settlers were at least initially allowed to claim the acres they had cultivated, the 1760s and 1770s saw the lion’s share of its prime land going, as always, to the British elite who either expanded and developed, or sold on their allocations. Much smaller tracts of land – nineteen in all – were offered to so-called “poor white settlers” – English, Irish and Scottish labourers, many formerly displaced from small farms or exhausted plantations elsewhere in the British West Indies – who applied to come to this newest British territory, eager to acquire those precious virgin acres and desperate to finally settle down.
By 1829, Bequia boasted nine sugar plantations of between 100 and 1000 acres – of which Hope Estate was one – numerous smallholdings, its own new church and a close-knit population of maybe 1400 people, of whom at least 1200 were slaves.
But the island’s prosperity was short lived: 1828 was the peak of production of sugar in the islands. Thereafter the industry slowly declined, and in the years following Emancipation in 1838 the once wealthy planters in England abandoned their locally managed sugar estates often facing bankruptcy and destitution. Those Bequians – of all class and colour -who remained sought new ways to make a living.
Maritime activities were nothing new to Bequians; the island had for more than a century been totally dependant on inter-island trading for its survival. Just as today virtually all supplies, including all but the simplest ground provisions, were imported into Admiralty Bay, and the island’s produce – sugar, molasses, rum, coffee, indigo and cotton – left on the same island traders. Many of the island’s earliest settlers and smallholders were also shipwrights, seamen and carpenters, and with an abundance of indigenous White Cedar on the island, the development of boat building was a natural – and essential – progression to ensure the islanders’ survival.
The waters surrounding the island were also superbly rich fishing grounds. Yankee whalers frequently ventured south to the Grenadines in search of their catch, and one young Bequian, William ("Old Bill") Wallace Jr. worked for many years on New England whaleboats before returning to his native island in the 1870s to start a whaling station in Friendship.
A second station, started by Joseph “Pa” Ollivierre swiftly followed. Even as early as the 1870s whale oil already ranked fourth in value of exports from the whole country, whilst the whale meat became – and today still remains – a staple food for many Bequians. It was not long before Bequia became renowned for her uniquely successful whaling fleet and her heroic whalermen.
It was the building of whaleboats in the last quarter of the 19th century that gave the real impetus for the rapid development of Bequia’s home-grown boat-building into a thriving industry. In just ten years, between 1871 and 1881, the number of mariners and shipwrights on the island increased from 73 to 157. Boats of all sizes, from 28ft whaleboats to large island schooners, were built on beaches all over the island – at Friendship Bay, Lower Bay, La Pompe, Paget Farm, Hamilton, Belmont and of course Port Elizabeth.
In the 20th century, boat and ship building in Bequia continued to dominate over the rest of the Grenadines. Of the 153 ships registered as having been built in St. Vincent & the Grenadines between 1923 and 1990, no less than 71 were built in Bequia by thirty-seven of the island’s boatbuilders.
Although Bequia’s golden age of shipbuilding has now passed, descendants of the island's renowned shipwrights, are still building boats on the island today, employing skills and methods that have remained unchanged for generations.
Twenty-first century Bequia retains its proud seafaring heritage, its fierce independence and its open-hearted welcome for visitors from other shores. Today’s Bequians are for the most part direct descendants of those African, Carib, English, Irish, Scottish, Asian and Portuguese settlers, labourers and slaves who came to the island in the 18th and 19th centuries, and who chose never to leave – or at least always to return.
St Vincent and the Grenadines achieved independence in 1979 and remains within the British Commonwealth. The Government is based on the "mainland" of St. Vincent and is a Parliamentary democracy based on English law. Its fierce independence and open-hearted treatment of visitors continues to be one of its main attractions.
Acknowledgement: Source of Island History – Bequia Tourism Association website
Bequia’s economy today revolves almost exclusively around tourism and tourism development. From fishermen to lobster divers, from water taxis to taxi drivers, villa construction, garden maintenance, boat builders, sailmaking, resident artists, skilled masons and carpenters, a very large part of Bequia’s community is involved in some aspect of tourism.
Bequia is part of the independent and democratic country of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). SVG is politically very stable, being a parliamentary democracy based on the British system with 15 elected MPs and 6 elected senators. It is still part of the British Commonwealth and also a member of the United Nations. The Queen is represented by the Governor General.
This is based on English law. Appeal decisions are referred to the High Court in London.
Famed for having that rare combination of friendly and welcoming people, colourful maritime heritage and simple lifestyle, but with modern amenities, many of Bequia’s earlier visitors have chosen to settle or built winter homes, adding to the unique ambience of the Island. Despite these changes, Bequia still retains much of its charm. Bequia’s superb anchorages are a huge attraction to visiting yachtsmen.
Interesting links: www.bequiatourism.com www.svgtourism.com www.bequia.net
SVG is a Commonwealth country, politically stable with an independent judiciary based on English law. Any nationality can purchase and own property and title deeds are registered at the Land Registry so guaranteed by the Government. There are planning and building regulations but these are not onerous as development is encouraged for economic reasons.
International Companies are not subject to taxation. Income tax is 10-32.5% on taxable gains but there is no Capital Gains Tax or Inheritance Tax. Corporation Tax is 32.5% but there is no tax on dividends. Whilst bureaucracy is sometimes a problem, SVG is renowned for its friendly and helpful business ethos and low crime rate. The Government pursues a policy of encouragement of inward foreign investment.
The official currency is Eastern Caribbean Dollars (EC) but US Dollars are also freely accepted. The EC$ : US$ exchange rate is currently fixed at 2.67 : 1.00.
220/240 volt, 50 cycle. Plugs have three rectangular pins. American appliances are mostly used so properties also have 110 volt alternative sockets.
The island has modern fibre optic cabling for telephone and internet as well as several cellular masts – Two communication companies operate in St. Vincent. Cable and Wireless (LIME) and Digicel and reception on Bequia is normally excellent.
Health and Safety
Whilst there is a small clinic/hospital on the island, if serious medical attention is required then it is recommended to go to Barbados. Health insurance is advised for both short and long term visitors.
Bequia is the second largest island in the Grenadines at 7 square miles (18 km2) (the largest being Carriacou, a dependency of Grenada). It is part of the country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and is approximately 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the nation’s capital, Kingstown, on the main island, Saint Vincent.
Bequia has a population of approximately 5,000. Bequia means “island of the clouds” in the ancient Arawak. The island’s name was also ‘Becouya’ as part of the Granadilles
Bequia is reached via the international gateway airports of Barbados and St Lucia. Miami 3 hours 30 minutes, Toronto 4 hours, New York 5 hours, London 7 hours 30 minutes & Los Angeles 9 hours.
The new international airport on neighbouring St Vincent will allow direct international flights in the future, with a short ferry ride to Bequia or direct air connection from there.
Two local companies offer a connecting flights from Barbados to the Grenadines, with a flight time of approximately an hour, depending if the flight is direct or stops off at one or two other Grenadine islands en route.
Barbados to St Vincent
Great weather is one of the main attractions of the Caribbean. The climate in the Grenadines is generally sunny and breezy, so although it is a hot climate, the steady trade winds have a pleasant cooling effect during the day.
There is not much seasonal variation in the temperature which averages around 80 to 85° F. The dry season range is between 70° and 85°F and wet season between 80° and 95°F.
The prevailing trade winds are north easterly and wind speeds are generally from 15 to 25km. For a few months after Christmas the winds pick up to about 20 to 30km
There are two seasons; the rainy season from June/July to October/November/December and the dry season from November/December to May/June. During the rainy season rainfall can be heavy and there are occasional storms but these are generally short-lived with plenty of good weather in between.
Sea temperatures vary between 77° F in February/March to a high of 82° F in September/October.
Being in the Caribbean, hurricanes are a possibility but Bequia is towards the southern end of the hurricane belt and is very rarely affected.