31.05.2019 - 04.06.2019
Bequia isn’t for everyone.
At only 7 square miles, it’s pretty small….only some 6 miles long and 2 miles at its widest. This tiny island in the Grenadines isn’t as beautiful as some other islands in the Caribbean. It definitely isn’t as luxurious. It certainly isn’t the easiest to get to.
And don’t even get me started on the giant snakes that hang out in the trees on the beach.
But…there was something about this sleepy little island that reeled us in. It was like a soothing balm to our high strung nerves. Bequia was a happy accident.
We didn’t know much about Bequia when we decided to make it our “off Guana” trip for 2019. I can’t even really tell you how we decided to go other than Matt saying he wanted to go somewhere he’d never been, and post-Irma, choices were limited.
Bequia kept popping up in my searches. One article described it as “the Caribbean as it once was,” another “the Caribbean’s best kept secret.” It seemed very laid back, less polished, more authentic. It was also hard to find much information about. I am accustomed to planning out every detail of our vacations well in advance using the information I can find online. When I tried to do that with Bequia, I didn’t have much luck. Partly because of the lack of information online, but I now also know it was partly because of the way things work down there.
I tried to schedule a day trip on a boat and the proprietor actually laughed. I got an email response saying "So early! Relax. Text me when you come. We’ll see what days we are going.” In Vicki-speak, she might has well have said, “Go stick your head in an oven and leave it there until it explodes.”
Bequia was described as small, authentic, and off the beaten track. I quickly discovered that being removed from the mainstream also meant being removed from any easy way to get there. Yet, somehow, after browsing a dozen or so islands, we decided to go to this tiny island that we couldn’t find much information about, that was going to take us 2 days to get to, and that we weren’t even sure how to pronounce.
“Beck-wee-ah?” Matt said.
“Bek-way.” I responded. “We’re going to Bek-way.”
We were going to Bequia.
Or was it day 2? We had left Knoxville the previous day, flying to Miami (on Matt’s birthday, no less) and arriving at 10:00 p.m. with just enough time to celebrate his birthday in style and get a few hours of sleep before getting up the next morning to fly to St. Vincent fueled by nothing more than determination and airplane bloody Marys.
(Please note that Little Havana's 80's 305 Bar cleverly serves up an old fashioned with a rolled up bill and some curious powder....literally the best drink presentation ever...just wanted to ensure you don't think we celebrated in style with a pile of blow and some cash...)
After a 4 hour plane ride, we grabbed a taxi for a 45 minute ride to the ferry port and jumped on the hour long ferry to Bequia.
It was late when we finally arrived at our villa, high above Lower Bay. Tired and hungry, we didn’t even unpack before jumping in our Jeep-like-vehicle. I have no idea what that vehicle was, but it was very sandy, didn’t have many parts on it that actually worked, and literally screamed as we crept down the incredibly steep road from the villa to the beach below.
It was 6:00 and, after over 24 hours of travel, it was perfect timing for Da Reef’s rum punch happy hour. Let me rephrase. Da Reef’s VERY STRONG RUM punch happy hour.
Just a straight shot down the hill from our villa, this quiet little seaside bar and restaurant with tables right on the water’s edge in Lower Bay offered a beautiful sunset and a perfect way to end a long day of travel (and start a much needed vacation).
For no extra charge, your table comes with a very persistent cat.
We had dinner reservations at Bagatelle on “the other side of the island” (a 4 minute drive….). After a few dicey hairpin turns in the absolute dark, we found the Bequia Beach Hotel on the opposite side of the island on the shores of Friendship Bay. Their fine dining restaurant, Bagatelle, was one of the nicest on the island and offered a seafood feast on Saturdays. Anything with the word “feast” in it sounded like a good way to start a vacation.
We were seated at a table right at the edge of the water, candles aglow, soft music playing. The feast was a lavish buffet. Unfortunately, it wasn’t lobster season, but there were plenty of good options. We sipped wine, listened to the rolling surf, and settled into what we hoped would be a magical week on a new island.
It would be a slow and easy week of salty air, turquoise seas, and rum filled lunches.
I’m not going to lie. It was a hot night. Even with the a/c, the bedroom of the villa had louvered windows that you couldn’t really seal up. The mosquito net kept the flying beasts out of the bed, but it did nothing about the heat.
Nevertheless, it was a beautiful morning on Bequia. Our villa had the most stunning outdoor patio overlooking the water and I simply stood and breathed it in. This was worth a warm night’s sleep. The entire villa was lovely.
We had no food and, more importantly, no coffee, so we were forced to leave our lovely nest and go in search of breakfast and groceries. It was that or starve with a beautiful view.
We headed into “town” (anyone who has ever visited a small Caribbean island knows good and well why that is in quotes) to grab some breakfast and find some provisions. Port Elizabeth was a cluster of brightly colored restaurants and bars. Nothing was higher than a palm tree.
We parked our Jeepy thing and wandered through the quaint seaside village. We quickly found ourselves at the Belmont Walkway, a beachfront walkway that hugged the coves and the shoreline between Port Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Beach.
It took us past several shops, bars, and restaurants. Pastel-painted homes dotted the hills and beaches around the harbor, and fragrant oleanders and frangipani spilled over fences. Hummingbirds hovered over hibiscus and gulls drifted over the soft pockets of sand that cushioned the sea. It was a place of tranquility and timelessness. I loved it already.
Our walk eventually landed us at the Gingerbread Café.
We were drawn in by the the café’s random smattering of tables set underneath the rustling palms with a stunning view of the water.
Okay, it was really the banana rum cake, but the view was very nice.
We decided to walk the rest of the walkway before heading out for groceries just to learn the lay of the land. Wow. It was GORGEOUS.
Bequia was starting things off right.
Buying groceries on a small island is always an exercise in patience and flexibility. You aren’t going to really find what you want and you are going to pay way more for it than you really want to. Going to an island grocery store with a list is simply futile and will do nothing more than waste your time and elevate your blood pressure. You’ll go in looking for brie, a fresh baguette, and some grapes and you’ll come out with a bag of generic brand cheese puffs, day old Wonder Bread, and a lime.
We would have welcomed a bag of generic cheese puffs after going to 3 stores only to find them all closed.
IT WAS SUNDAY.
The only thing worse than trying to buy groceries on an island is trying to buy them on Sunday.
We finally found something open and it was pretty minimal. Kind of a cross between a half empty Dollar General and a Seven Eleven. There were two very drunk but very friendly people laying on the sidewalk outside. It would do. We walked over the very happy drunk patrons, grabbed some basics, a bottle of VERY STRONG RUM, and a bag of eggs.
Yes, a bag of eggs. Don’t ask. It’s an island, remember?
We put our food in our Jeepy thing and headed to the produce market. The produce market more than made up for the lack of options at the grocery store. Even on a Sunday, the place was loaded with piles of fruit and vegetables, so fresh and beautiful, so unlike the hothouse crap we buy at home that is picked before it’s ripe and lacks any sort of taste whatsoever. Even better, every vendor wanted us to buy THEIR fruit so they cut things up, handed to them to us, asked us what we wanted to taste. It was practically second breakfast.
They even convinced us to try some things we’d never had and definitely wouldn’t have bought otherwise.
The Sapodilla was my favorite. This little fella was sweet. I mean super sweet. Like eating sugar. Like eating a brown sugar covered pear or caramel covered cotton candy. It was crazy delicious.
Inexplicably, Matt to decided he preferred the soursop. Not only was it the ugliest fruit God put on the planet, it had a texture much like a snotty nose and tasted similar, not that I have actually tasted a snotty nose, but I feel confident it is quite similar to a soursop. Filled with annoying little seeds, it managed to be stringy and gooey all at the same time. The texture was like the guts you scoop out of a pumpkin when you carve it. Some people will tell you this mushy, slippery mess tastes like pineapples and strawberries. Those people lie.
We loaded up and headed back to the villa to drop our bounty.
I wasn’t lying about the VERY STRONG RUM.
Sunset VSR is 169 proof. Some say it has notes of butterscotch and vanilla, but my singed nose hairs disagreed. I felt it was more reminiscent of rubbing alcohol.
I don't recommend anyone that is not a native Bequian try to drink this overproof rum. There is no circumstance under which it can end well. It is simply a bad idea. Always. We'll just leave it at that.
FINALLY…..it was time for the beach. We kept things easy and just headed down to the bottom of the hill to Lower Bay. I was pretty sure it was going to be an awesome beach, so why go any farther?
It was an awesome beach.
The beautiful bay was calm and turquoise and the soft sand was warm underneath our feet. I counted about 5 other people on the entire expanse of the beach.
We dropped our things at Da Reef and enjoyed a rum punch (or two) before heading down to the water.
After sufficient sunning and lounging, we heard what sounded like jazz coming from above. We returned to the restaurant to find a live jazz band playing. Wings, fries, and a fish platter rounded out a perfect afternoon (and maybe a couple more rum punches).
It was time to nap off the rum punches, so we packed it in and headed back up to our villa where we had a very classy and elegant snack of Doritos, guacamole, and cheap wine before dropping off into a beach fueled nap.
We napped right through sunset, but we woke up in time for dinner at Firefly Plantation. I couldn’t believe we were the only patrons in this beautiful, tropical restaurant.
We learned quickly that we had just missed “the season” on Bequia and that most tourism shuts down after Easter. This being the first of June, the island was pretty much a ghost town. Unfortunately, this also meant that many of the nice places we wanted to visit had closed only the week before, but there were plenty that were still open and welcoming.
Lovely setting, lovely cocktails, and wonderful food. And we had the entire place to ourselves!
After a beautiful breakfast on the deck, we headed back to the Bequia Beach Hotel.
We noticed at our arrival night’s dinner that they offered a day pass to non-guests. This included a pool cabana, a palapa on the beach, a massage for each person at the spa, a 3 course lunch, and 4 cocktails each.
We started the day on pool loungers, relaxing until our massage. I booked an early time because post-sun, post-sand massages sounded messy. And potentially painful. The spa at the resort was a lovely oasis of calm. Full of tropical upscale charm, it was also one of the best massages I have EVER HAD.
With liquid muscles, we slithered back toward the bar and decided to try out a cocktail. A cocktail turned into two and maybe into 4 and then, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble for serving us more than our allocation, but maybe 5. Who was counting? They certainly weren’t.
Alternating between the beach and the bar, it was a lovely day. The beaches on this side of the island were definitely more rugged, and not very swimmable, but perfect for sunning and cocktail sipping.
We were able to order from the menu at lunch and I opted for a tuna poke bowl with thick hunks of juicy tuna and chunky avocado, fresh mango and a Caribbean slaw. Lunch came with dessert and one heck of a view.
After lunch, we walked to the other end of the beach, taking in the dramatic and rugged beauty of it all. On the opposite end, we found a riot of colorful fishing boats and playing children.
It was a long, leisurely day and we felt it was worth every penny. While we aren’t resort people, the Bequia Beach Hotel was beautiful and we saw no one else on the beach or pool the entire time we were there. Despite some closures, I must say off season on Bequia rocked.
After our required post-beach naps, we managed to get up and out in time to catch the sunset. Da Reef below the house had already become a favorite, for its location right on the beach, proximity to the villa, beautiful sunsets, and amazing (and cheap) rum punch. We just couldn’t find a reason to go anywhere else.
Although we’d JUST been there….we returned to the Bequia Beach Hotel (maybe we were becoming hotel people????) to try their Italian restaurant, Blue Tropic.
Blue Tropic was a little hard to find, especially in the dark, after a day of cocktails and a nap-fuzzy brain. We wandered around in the palm trees for a bit before locating it up on the hillside. It was super cozy and quaint and surprisingly busy. “Busy” meant that about 2 other tables were occupied.
We had a delicious caprese salad and a cheese board (because there is no such thing as too much cheese). Matt opted for pasta and I got a big ole pepperoni pizza. Why? Because there is no such thing as too much cheese.
Y’all….that pizza was darn good!
Bequia was full of surprises.
What do you do in the off season on a tiny island in the Grenadines? Already, the languorous days stretched out like sleeping dogs in the sun. Should we take a swim? Fancy a mango? Is it too early for a cold rum punch? C'mon, relaaaaaaaax……..Bequia said.
And we listened.
It was easy to do. Bequia made it easy. We enjoyed a beautiful breakfast on the deck and then…did nothing. That deck was hard to pull ourselves away from.
We already knew the beauty of Bequia wasn’t about sleek designs, luxury resorts, expensive beach bars or A-listers. Bequia wasn’t nearby Mustique…a den of glitz and glam for the rich and famous. Bequia was content to sit outside the limelight. A gentle and slow place where the water was Caribbean blue, clear and calm, lined by white crescent shores littered with palm trees and a scattering of tiny beach bars that were little more than driftwood shacks where time thickened and the days slipped by in waves of sunshine.
“No vex,” they said.
No worries in this place. We were feeling it.
It was time to try Princess Margaret Beach, what I predicted to be our second favorite beach. It actually ended up being our favorite. Named after her one visit to this beach, Princess Margaret was a slice of turquoise heaven.
I loved Lower Bay, but Princess Margaret had just a little more “oomph.” Maybe it was Jack’s Beach Bar and the lovely food and drinks, maybe it was the fact that you could get a chair and an umbrella, maybe it was the fact that the beach was littered with beach glass and the sand was as soft as flour, or maybe it was Fay’s $3 rum punch?
Whatever it was, it’s soothing magic sucked me right in.
Jack’s is owned by the Bequia Beach Hotel, so we expected it to be nothing short of fabulous. We were not disappointed. The bartenders mixed up our drinks and poured them into our Yetis to keep them chilled, checking on us out on the beach frequently to make sure we didn’t need anything else. When we did, they grabbed our Yetis and returned, our Yetis full of icy goodness.
Sure, there were less expensive chairs farther down the beach and less expensive drinks…but….WHY? The setting and service at Jack’s were well worth it.
Lunch arrived and it was a smorgasboard of Jack’s famed fried chicken, French fries, a fresh seared tuna salad, more French fries, and salty margaritas.
Jack’s made a mean margarita. After two of those, I thought I was Princess Margaret myself.
Albeit, a very loud and obnoxious version of Princess Margaret.
Already creatures of habit, we snoozed the heat of the late afternoon away and ventured out for the magical sunset hour at Da Reef.
The golden hour on Bequia truly lived up to the hype.
And it wasn't just the VERY STRONG RUM.
We hadn’t made a firm selection for dinner that night. I had a few places in mind, so we set off, not 100% sure where we would end up. We drove to Papa’s and heard live music drifting from the windows and that sealed it.
Bequia doesn’t have a strong online presence, so I was less sure what places were like than I am in preparation for many of our vacations. I wasn’t prepared for how nice Papa’s was. I expected something rather “barlike” and was surprised to find an elegant tropical restaurant set high on a hillside on the far end of Port Elizabeth with live music and a crazy good view of the twinkling lights below.
The food was amazing – fresh salad, roasted goat cheese, and seafood pasta. I also grew bold and tried the callaloo soup. All I knew was that it was a local specialty. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS IN IT.
I didn’t even ask.
When it came out, it was so dark in the restaurant, I couldn’t really see what I was eating. I took a tentative bite, not knowing if it was goat head stew, raw squid in broth, or cream of soupsop.
It was delicious and I ate it having no idea what it was. I Googled it later and was pleased to find out all I had ingested was a leafy green vegetable, made into a thick and savory soup.
We enjoyed dinner, a bottle of wine, and watched as patrons danced to the band. Dinner was over, but we wanted to linger and enjoy the band. The waitress asked if we wanted more wine. We looked wistfully at the empty bottle and agreed we’d each just get one more glass, so we told her yes, one more glass, please.
She brought us ONE. MORE. GLASS.
This is what happens when two Hatfields try to share one glass of wine.
Stay tuned! We're only halfway through! There is more Bequia to come.....