Does the Caribbean feel a bit spoiled? Not ruined exactly, just a little blemished? Blame it on the mega cruise ships and the huge all-inclusive resorts. It’s hard to enjoy your once-favorite islands with so many people trying to see and do everything in just a few days—or, sometimes, just a few hours. But there are a couple of spots, like the Tobago Cays Marine Park, that haven’t been discovered—yet.
The Tobago Cays are five uninhabited islands in the southern—and already rarely visited—Grenadines. They were privately owned until 1999, when the St. Vincent government purchased Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Baradal, Petit Tabac, and Jamesby. The 1,400-acre area was declared a national park and wildlife reserve in 2006. It’s now called the “Jewel in the Crown” of the southern Grenadines and is one of the largest-remaining pristine coral reefs in the Caribbean.
From Palm Island, it’s a 45-minute boat ride to the marine park, where you find a calm, sandy-bottomed lagoon. The water looks blue-green from a distance, but perfectly clear once you’re above it. Colorful coral and schools of fish are just beneath surface. Forested islands are ringed by white-sand beaches. While a cool breeze blows in from the Atlantic.
Sail by the Catholic Rock Bird Sanctuary, where sea birds roost. Though you can’t set foot on their nesting ground, you can stare at the large colonies through binoculars. Hike Jamesby, Petit Bateau, or Petit Rameau to see lounging iguanas and panoramic views of the islands. Snorkel among green and hawksbill sea turtles in the Baradal Turtle Sanctuary. Sea kayak to one of those sandy beaches on Petit Tabac, where one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies was filmed. You’re surrounded by bent coconut trees and lumbering box tortoises as you eat a picnic lunch on the island.
Then pick a spot to go scuba diving. The Purunia wreck, a British gunship from World War I, is covered with colorful sponges. Graceful sea turtles and huge stingrays glide through the Mayreau Gardens. Horseshoe Reef is home to hundreds of starfish. While Sail Rock is a pinnacle site for advanced divers. Except for a few other sailboats in the distance, you have the whole park to yourself. Now you’re the one who’s spoiled.