Clifton, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Photo: Igbgrant at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Igbgrant at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
November is a great time to head to the Caribbean. The hurricane period is just about over, though this year’s storm activity was lower than normal anyway. While it’s still considered the off-season, meaning no crowds and lower prices before the holiday rush begins. So how’s a quick getaway sound?

Union Island sits at the end of the Grenadines chain. The island is known as the “Tahiti of the West Indies” for its gorgeous volcanic peaks. It’s small, easy walkable, and full of friendly people. Plus, it’s a good place to get a real taste of the Caribbean. French and British influences—leftover from the plantation era—mix with West Africa flavors brought over by the slaves and fresh seafood. You quickly work up an appetite before you even arrive.

The little airport juts out of the east side of the island. After a hold-your-breath landing, it’s a short walk to Clifton. The island’s main town has everything you expect in a busy Caribbean port: colorful houses, an overflowing market next to Hugh Mulzac Square, and plenty of waterfront bars and restaurants. Go to the Anchorage Yacht Club for still-warm croissants and freshly squeezed juice or to Captain Gourmet for a quick espresso, if you can’t wait to start exploring.

Photo: Iain Grant (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Iain Grant (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Climb Fort Hill for a bird’s-eye view of Clifton Harbour and the small planes taking off from the airport. The canon battery protected the harbor in the 17th century. Hike Mount Taboi, the highest peak in the Grenadines. You pass Sea Island cotton trees and cacti before reaching the summit, where you find an amazing panoramic view of the nearby islands. Visit Big Sands Beach to go snorkeling on the north shore. The crescent-shaped beach is protected by an offshore reef. Swim in the warm water off Chatham Bay Beach. Or join a catamaran tour to sail through nearby Tobago Cays Marine Park, five pristine, uninhabited islands.

Back on dry land, stop at Union Jake’s Distillery to taste fruit brandy. The American distillers ferment tropical fruit and honey to create their sweet liqueurs. Head to Happy Island, just offshore, for a strong rum punch. The man-made island was built out of empty conch shells. Return to Clifton when your stomach starts to rumble. The West Indies Restaurant serves simple Creole conch from a little wooden shack. Lambi’s features curries, stews, and a steel-drum band. While the more refined L’Aquarium has French and Italian dishes, a good wine list, a water view, and a giant tank with eels and small fish, of course.

Regardless of which restaurant you select, you should try to find the Blue Pelican Bar after dinner. Follow 51 steps up from the harbor and pass a bunch of pigs to reach this little bar in the trees. The all-blue bar has cheap Hairoun beer and an amazing view. And this time of year, you have it almost all to yourself.

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