Are you sick of cookie-cutter experiences in the Caribbean? You know the drill. Board a shuttle at the airport, drive to a gated resort, and plop yourself on the beach for the rest of week. Though relaxing, you could be anywhere. It’s time for a change. This trip, you’re going to leave the resort, jump on a ferry, and explore a little island. Mayreau, here you come.
Mayreau, at 1.5 square miles, is the smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines chain. The hilly island sits in between Union Island and the Tobago Cays. It was once owned by the French, and it was full of cotton fields and West African slaves. Today, only about 300 people live here. Electricity finally arrived in 2002. There’s one road, only a handful of cars, and no resorts. Instead, you’ll find roosters and goats, peaceful beaches and reggae bars, and stunning views. How quickly can you get there?
Unfortunately, not very fast. It’s a three-hour ferry ride from St. Vincent. Though if it were easy, the island wouldn’t still be a peaceful paradise. You dock at Saline Bay, a sheltered, crescent-shaped beach on the western side of the island. It’s named for the salt pond just to the east. Monkey Point, acacias and cacti, and iguanas and tortoises are to the south. Follow the single-lane road up Station Hill. Stop at Robert Righteous & De Youths Seafood Restaurant for an early lunch. Driftwood, seashells, and portraits of Bob Marley line the colorful building. Eat spicy jerk fish, drink a rum punch, and listen to a bongo jam session. You’re on island time now.
After lunch, continue heading up the hill to the island’s only village. An adorable brick-and-stone Catholic church, whose doors are always open, sits on the crest. From here, you can see the turquoise water that surrounds Mayreau, bobbing boats, the Tobago Cays, Canouan, and Union Island. This certainly beats your usual beach view.
Then start heading down toward the northern coast. Saltwhistle Bay, a 2.5-mile powdery beach, is lined with sea grape and palm trees. Sailboats anchor just offshore. And the nearby reef keeps the water calm, so you can snorkel among sea fans, green sea turtles, nurse sharks, and eagle rays. When you finally emerge from the water, you hear loud music coming from the right end of the beach. You wander over and find the “Last Bar Before the Jungle,” an unnamed bar that smells like ganja, serves strong rum, and encourages people to dance.
You may not finish your tour of Mayreau. You had planned to see Windward Careenage and Upper Bay on the windward side of the island. You had hoped to scuba dive in the Mayreau Garden and among the Puruni wreck from 1918. But now you’re laughing and dancing at a little beach bar. There’s nothing more Caribbean than that.