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It’s finally happened. We left Bequia.
We never intended to stay in one place for so long, hurricane season excepting. When we moved onboard in late April it seemed sensible to hang around and get familiar with Mirounga. We knew we had to stick around to get our second vaccination in early June. We had thought, maybe, that by mid-late June we’d start an amble down the southern Grenadines towards Grenada.
Then we decided to get a barrel delivered, to arrive on 30 June in Kingstown. We thought we’d kill some time with learning to dive, the barrel would arrive, then we’d go. Then Hurricane Elsa blew through and delayed things. The barrel sat in a container for nearly 2 weeks. Having to get our vaccination cards replaced delayed things even more (long story, but all SVG-issued ones are being replaced because of fraud issues).
So, in the end, we had a month longer in Bequia than planned. Aside from our weekends away for my birthday and escaping Elsa, we didn’t leave Admiralty Bay. Bequia became home
That’s the only way to describe it. We had our favourite routes and routines. We had friends, on land and in boats. Shopkeepers and restaurant staff knew us, and we felt wholly welcome and a part of life in the town.
We could rarely walk into town without meeting someone we knew for a chat, whether it be Boujou, a friendly local man who runs errands and does odd jobs around Port Elizabeth, Sandra from St Kitts who we met on a rum tour, or our friends Chris and Lou who were our quarantine hosts. By the end of our stay, hauling our laundry to the laundrette, we’d hear the cries of “Auntie Ailsa, Uncle Colin!” and seven-year-old Lily, her little brother, and their cousin Tamara would appear to talk and play. Colin was usually relegated to laundry duty while Lily got stuck into playing with my hair…
I cannot think of a better place to have started our liveaboard life. There was very little we could have needed, or wanted, that we couldn’t find.
Except maybe a vacuum cleaner, but that’s what the barrel was for…
This is my review of the businesses we used, and the things we did – hopefully it will inspire more people to visit.
Accommodation, and anchoring
At the time we arrived, we had to quarantine for two weeks. As of late July, fully vaccinated travellers need only quarantine for 48 hours (along with having the usual gamut of PCR tests). Protocols are updated regularly and are published on a dedicated SVG government website.
Staying on land
We got a good look at a couple of other places that might appeal, which are worth a mention.
Daffodil, who runs the eponymous marine services, has four rooms available at her “Open Deck” premises. We’ve seen these whilst enjoying the Friday night pot luck, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been tempted to crawl right into bed. Beautiful suites, two of which open out onto a large terrace, in a quiet location, with a lovely host. What more could you need?
We also got a glimpse at the accommodation at The French House, part of Sugar Reef’s offering. They were offering a rare chance to dine from the luxury villa, which is the ultimate in seclusion and relaxation. French House is a beautiful historic building with incredible views and lovely cooling breezes. It’s on the windward side and makes a great change of scenery from the Caribbean side.
More on both The Open Deck and French House in food…
Admiralty Bay is HUGE. There are so many options, which is great if you want a change, or if the wind shifts.
Mirounga came with a private mooring ball, which meant we mostly stayed put. Our little home was right outside Mac’s Pizzeria, and a nice walk along the Princess Margaret Walkway to town. It does get quite busy in the town, without much swinging room or place to anchor between mooring balls, so most people prefer to stay further out.
We did, briefly, take a mooring ball in front of the Bequia Plantation Hotel in bad weather when we were swinging in our usual spot. This was really pleasant, and the cost was a very reasonable at EC$30 a night for 3 nights.
In general, we’ve read advice to be very careful taking a mooring ball. Many are not maintained well, and should always be dived on. If you take a ball, the ones maintained by Daffodil and Phat Shag are generally a good option (refer to a recent Doyles Guide for more info). For anchoring, holding is best at Princess Margaret and Lower Bay.
Most cruisers we met choose to anchor in front of Princess Margaret Beach, and as a result, a lovely community tended to fall into place there. It’s only a short dinghy ride from town, and you have the option of using the dinghy dock in front of Jack’s Beach Bar and walking along the Belmont Walkway to the shops. It’s away from any noise from town, and probably less likely to be passed at close quarters by weekend speedboats than the Port Elizabeth anchorage. It can apparently be a bit rolly in certain conditions, but otherwise, it’s a pristine postcard anchorage. It was a lovely sight seeing friends paddle ashore on their SUPs for morning yoga under the almond tree between Jack’s and Fay’s.
Lower Bay is a nice day anchorage, but you rarely see people use it overnight. We have in the past and it was fine but it was when there was very little swell. There’s no dinghy dock, and beaching the dinghy can be a pain because of the reefs lining the shore. It’s a great place to get some solitude, but a slog into town if you’re likely to be heading ashore often.
There are also moorings along the northern edge of the bay, from the Marina to Daffodil’s Open Deck. These can be good in the rare westerly wind as they’re well protected.
Eating and drinking
Bequia has an incredible number of options for eating out. We tried plenty but still didn’t make it to every one. We definitely developed some favorites. I’ve organised these places vaguely by area…
Places to eat in the town itself tend to be very relaxed, locally run, and popular with locals. We didn’t get round that many, despite the delicious smells, as we were often looking for a breeze.
We found Sweetie Bird in search of roti, following a recommendation from a cruiser friend. Tucked between front street and back street, with signs from both, it’s easy to miss. It’s a simple affair, a kitchen, and takeaway window with three or four picnic benches, but the welcome and service were excellent. The chicken rotis were just what we’d craved – generously filled with no bones. We were encouraged to try the homemade mauby, which is a local drink made from tree bark with a distinct liquorice taste. It was fun to try even if it was a bit of a shock!
We spent a lot of time in Maria’s Cafe, for three reasons. One was that we could get breakfast any time of day, which is always a winner for me. The omelettes are fantastic, as are the fish sandwiches. The second was Angelique, the most charming, friendly, curious waitress we’ve ever met. And the third was because it was above the laundrette, so we often had some time to kill there. Great views, a lovely cool breeze, and a varied all-day menu.
Nope, not THAT pizza hut. This is a little takeaway outlet with a few seats in the shade, right on Front Street beside Digicel. A slice of pizza is only EC$7, so it’s a great cheap, quick lunch. We would take away a slice and walk with it if we were in a hurry, or sit outside with a soft drink when we had time. The pepperoni was reliably good, and we loved the minced beef when it was available. We always had a warm welcome, and the owner would say hi when we passed.
Ice Cream Shop – Bayshore Mall
I’m afraid I can’t remember or find the name of the ice cream shop on the ground floor of Bayshore Mall (opposite the ferry dock), but we enjoyed cones from here a couple of times and it was a nice treat. They also do roti and soft drinks.
Ocar is the area beyond the petrol station and market, and around the curve of the bay. Everything is a little spaced out. From the sea, you can either use the town dinghy dock to access Papas and walk along or the Marina dock (to the left of the blue building). Be careful with the dock – there are a lot of shallow reef areas and obstructions to avoid.
The last time we came to Papa’s, in 2018, it was the only place we ate in Bequia as we knew the owner. The views and food are fantastic. This time, we just didn’t get round to it, partly because opening hours have been reduced while visitor numbers are low. We ended up there in the end though, to watch the European Championship finals. We sat at the bar and enjoyed a sociable, if tense, few hours. The fish burger and chips we had were delicious, and Gert the manager (the legendary Papa) kept everyone well entertained when things got too stressful.
The Bequia Underground
The Bequia Underground is the bar/restaurant at the Bequia Marina, all under new management in 2021. We go for the excellent and very affordable pizzas and the views across the bay. Dr Beige’s BBQ is also very good, as are the spring rolls and fish bites. I love the cocktails, but the waitresses don’t always love making them. As a new business, there’s definitely some room for improvement but owner/manager Michael and partner/chef Christopher are dealing with difficult times. Some nights the bar is deserted, others it’s packed and the bar is sold out. I think being both a little more conservative and more clear on opening hours would help a lot.
Sailors Cafe, owned and run by chef Elfic, the singing chef, is one of our favourite places to go in Bequia. It became a weekly Wednesday night out for us. Casual, with a thrifted vibe, it’s a unique setting, and great for parties and social evenings. Provided there are enough customers and he can escape the kitchen, Elfic and a friend will play the guitar and sing beautifully. On busier nights, with a warning, they’re joined by a small steel pan ensemble. It’s magical.
Elfic’s cooking is equally magical. The menu has a great variety, from pizza to Chinese dishes, to sandwiches, and classic Caribbean fare like roti, and grilled fish with rice. The chow mein, chicken or fish roti, and pizzas were our favourite dishes.
Coco has run his upper floor restaurant for a long time, and it’s become an institution amongst cruisers. We ate there once, on a very quiet night, emphasised by Sailors over the road being lively. The pasta was very good, affordable, and the portions huge. The wider menu was a little pricey for us, but we’ve been told the fish chowder is excellent so we really need to give it another go.
Princess Margaret Beach and Belmont Walkway
Jack’s Beach Bar
Jack’s became a regular haunt of ours, for so many reasons. The location, at the North end of Princess Margaret Beach, is fantastic for sunset watching, and it has a good dinghy dock that’s well lit at night. It’s a really well-placed gathering spot. The service is always excellent, and Romeo and Donny always took great care of us and kept us smiling. We were big fans of the fried ballahoo and rosemary fries, and the taco bowls that come up on the specials board are amazing. They also do very tasty flatbreads and deserts, and a good breakfast. The cocktail list is a huge draw, and unlike some places, they always have the ingredients, skill, and will to make something delicious. The SVG&T and passionfruit mojitos were our favourites.
We essentially lived ‘outside’ Mac’s, given the location of our mooring, so it was only right that we eat there a few times. Their pizza was the first thing we ate in Bequia, our lockdown hosts having picked up a takeaway for us on our first night. The pizzas are excellent, we liked the BBQ chicken we had on a Saturday night EC$50 deal was the best. Be sure to ask for a thin crust if that’s your preference! The best item on the menu, however, wasn’t the pizza, it was the seared tuna – it’s incredible. The breakfasts are also very good, with a menu that changes often – look out for the cheese and ham biscuits and the apple streusel. Our favourite thing about Mac’s is the people – the service is always warm and welcome, and the owners Kevin and Drasi are the loveliest people. If you ever need a hug, Drasi is one of the best huggers I’ve ever met!
We only got to eat at Gingerbread Cafe once before it closed for the down season, but it was fantastic. Really good cooked breakfast and the only place I’ve managed to get a decaf cappuccino on Bequia. Not to be missed is the little ice cream shop next to the cafe run by Maranne, who makes her own excellent ice creams. Maranne also makes plain yogurt, which you can buy in the shop when it’s open, or order by email to collect on a Wednesday morning. Details can be found in the Bequia This Week newsletter.
There are quite a few restaurants and bars along Lower Bay, not all we managed to make it to. It can be a little tricky by dinghy as there’s no dock, and there’s a lot of reefs, but it’s a nice walk if you take the Princess Margaret Trail along from the dock outside Jack’s.
We loved De Reef the couple of times we visited. Friendly, lively, and with excellent food. It’s a postcard setting, right on the beach with waves breaking on the reef nearby. We found it to be a gathering place of the well-off Brits and North Americans who call Bequia home in-season, and the few that stay year-round. We visited in late April when it was still lobster season and the lobster sandwich is the best I’ve ever eaten – I still think of it, often. They have a stage setup that is being developed under the guidance of semi-celebrity and producer John Burstein, and it must be a great place for a party.
We stopped into Dawn’s after hiking up to Ma Peggy as it was recommended by a friend and right on our route. We caught them at an awkward time, between breakfast and lunch, but they could still serve up tasty sandwiches. The cafe, and its design, are lovely and fresh.
We only ate Petra’s as takeaway while in lockdown, and never made it back, but would love to. Excellent lambi (conch) roti and fritters – this is where to come for classic Caribbean cuisine.
We had lunch at Keegan’s after hearing about the resident cat, christened Laptop for being such a softie. Unfortunately, poor Laptop wasn’t being treated that well by other patrons and the staff clearly didn’t care. The food was fine, and the setting was nice. That said, between the lack of feline appreciation and another patron leaving music blaring out of his parked car, it wasn’t our favourite.
Hamilton and elsewhere
The Open Deck was a firm favourite of ours. Located in Hamilton, it’s easy to spot from the water as Daffodil’s yellow service boat is moored outside. From land, you drive all the way past town towards Fort Hamilton. We went for the cruisers pot luck dinners, which became almost weekly, and have a few non-cruisers along too.
Daffodil has a WhatsApp group to let people know what the plan is each week and allow people to RSVP – there weren’t many people choosing to do pot luck so on some weeks she put together a buffet for a reasonable price of EC$35. Daffodil won’t exclude anyone though, so if you want to come and grill your own food on the BBQ and just pay for drinks at the bar, you can. The aim is a social evening, where people gather around a large table (sometimes more on busy nights) and break bread together. When Daffodil isn’t at the bar, help yourself to drinks but don’t forget to keep the bottle cap so you know how many you need to pay for! A lovely setting with a breeze, and always a fun night.
French House was where we went for our first brunch after escaping quarantine, once the ash had cleared somewhat. This is a temporary operation location for Sugar Reef and is well worth a visit. We had a warm welcome from Judit and her team. The food was excellent and the service top standard – this is somewhere to go if you’re feeling fancy. But, like all places in Bequia, it’s still casual and relaxed. We really regret not going back, and will definitely be visiting on our return to Bequia if French House is still being used. If it’s not, we’ll visit Sugar Reef for the normal operation!
Shopping and services
We didn’t do a lot of ‘fun’ shopping in Bequia, having just moved out and not being holidaymakers hunting for souvenirs, but we did do a lot of practical shopping!
There are a few options for supermarkets in Bequia, and all are fairly well stocked with staples.
We did the bulk of our shopping at Knights, which has three branches. The main branch is on the main road towards the Hospital, Bank, and Pharmacy, and there’s a smaller branch on Front Street (Belmont Road) near the petrol station and another which is tax-free in Ocar near the marina. If you can’t find something in one, you may find it in another, and the prices vary. Our favourite was Front Street, but the larger branch had more items. A few products worth looking out for are the frozen samosas which are a great small supper, the ballahoo fish fillets which fry up beautifully with coconut oil, and Mama guava jelly (stocked at the marina Knights). Knights sells good bread, so we usually got it there when we weren’t baking.
There are a few small supermarkets such as Central Supermarket where you may find something you can’t get elsewhere. For fancier items visit Doris on Back Street, or Select beside Maria’s. These both sell a lot of items you won’t find elsewhere, but beware of the expiry dates and prices! We liked to visit Doris even when we didn’t necessarily need to as she’s so friendly and was a reliable, if expensive, source of Diet Coke. If money isn’t an issue, she has the best range of cheese on the island.
Fruit and veg
Fruit and veg we tended to buy from the shops along Front Street opposite the walkway (T&C and Darkie’s are two) as they tended to have the best range and kept their produce well. You’ll find other vendors around, but often what they sell doesn’t last as long. You can also buy fruit and veg from Ranees on the mainland – you place an order by email, pay by PayPal, and they’ll put the box on the ferry for you to collect.
Meat, fish and dairy
If you’re a meat-eater you won’t find much of quality in the supermarkets, but you’ll love Maison Baroz. Claude and Nathalie have set up a proper French-style butchery out of their home and will meet you in town or invite you up to their home to browse. Follow them on Facebook for regular updates on what’s available, and order via WhatsApp. We loved everything we ordered but were especially impressed with the burgers, saucisson, and merguez sausages.
Fresh fish is also tricky as there’s no fish market on the island, but you may be offered it when guys have been out. We bought some excellent fresh barracuda from the Dive Adventures divers.
As mentioned, Maranne is where to get yogurt, you won’t find other options. Fresh pasteurised milk is a rarity and we didn’t see it, though apparently, Doris gets it in high season.
If you’re buying eggs, it’s worth getting hold of an egg box (Doris has them), as they’re sold loose in Knights – seeing people putting eggs in a plastic bag is quite bizarre.
For alcohol, Knights, Select, and Doris all sell a decent selection of wines and spirits, at varying prices. Everyone we met raved about 9 Crimes wine, which seems to have been fully embraced by the local ex-pat community. We preferred to get wine from Gonsalves in Kingstown, who like Ranees will take a remote order and put it on the ferry for you. They have French wines and prosecco at very good prices so it’s worth it if you like to buy by the case.
If you drink beer, the cheapest and best source is the Hairoun Depot, along the road beyond the marina when you come from town (or use the dinghy dock two along from the marina). You can buy Hairoun lager, Guinness, and Hairoun soft drinks by the crate at the best rates on the island. If you take in your empty crate of bottles, you’ll get a EC$10 credit.
Clothing and gifts
There are a few clothes stores, which I didn’t go in as I didn’t need anything, but there are options. Solana’s, who is also the local FedEx office, has a decent range of holiday clothes.
My favourite store was Bequia Threadworks. Threadworks is a non-profit which teaches local women sewing skills with the hope of helping them to be more economically active and boosting the local economy. I first bought a pair of shorts as I was finding the options I packed uncomfortable. I ended up going on to buy three dresses, all of which I love, and a Turkish towel. When I was buying the first dress it turned out that I was between sizes, but it wasn’t a problem. For EC$15, Threadworks will tailor pieces to fit within a few days. They work mostly with linen, and everything is beautifully made. The standard prices are outside my budget, but the sale prices are very affordable. It’s been really nice to see this enterprise grow from a small group making quite middle-aged designs in 2018 to a proper shop with a range of very stylish, modern cuts, and I’m excited about future seasons.
The only other souvenirs we’ve bought are some mugs from Bequia Pottery. I was not enjoying the ones onboard so went in search of a good coffee cup. The pottery owners were about to head off to the UK but welcomed us in for a look around, and we chose three lovely designs. I’m hoping we’ll be back at a time when pottery classes are running in the future, I was very interested in Mike’s volcanic ash glazes and would love to make my own with the ash we collected.
This was what we did a lot of, given we were new to the boat and wanted to both do some repairs and set things up as we wanted them.
For hardware, the upstairs of the big Knight’s is the most affordable, so that was often our first stop for ‘standard’ items. Bequia Venture is the main hardware supplier and had a fair amount of marine-grade products and homewares, but it can be very expensive.
There are two chandleries on Bequia. We did visit Piper Marine, on Back Street, but found that stock could be limited and out of date – I managed to buy some FSR, the legendary blue fibreglass cleaner, that was so old it was beige! When I realised the owner was very gracious about a refund. We spent far more time in Dockside Marine, to the extent that I’m sure Kira was sick of us, and we now kind of miss her. Having now gone to the bigger chandleries in Grenada we now know that Dockside is tiny, but we still found it well stocked and Kira was very knowledgeable. Dockside has a small selection of fishing tackle, but if you need something specific Lulley’s, above Central Supermarket, has the best range.
For gas refills, we used Max Gas opposite the town dinghy dock, a next day service. We got outboard petrol from the main petrol station and used Daffodil for diesel and water supplies. Rubbish and recycling (glass and cans) can be dumped in the large Action Bequia dumpsters to the left of the dinghy dock – please don’t use the other bins around the island.
For laundry, we alternated between using Daffodil and using the town laundrette beneath Maria’s. Both are a similar price if you wash and dry items. We prefer line drying, which Daffodil does, but in wet weather, this can take a while. Miss Ann’s laundry in town had the choice of service or self-service at the same price – after she put some delicates in the tumble drier after I said not to I stuck to self-service! Take your own washing powder, and be warned that the machines aren’t brilliantly clean so whites won’t get white. The cheapest option was for us to wash in town and dry on the boat, but I often couldn’t face Miss Ann who is a taciturn woman who likes to focus on her Candy Crush. If Daffodil did a lower price for returning clothes wet, we would definitely have chosen that option.
There’s only one bank in town, the Royal Bank of Canada, which has two ATMs. Beware that these can run out, especially on holiday weekends, and at one point they were out of action for international cards for a week. The upside is the charming Edinburgh accent they speak with.
Health and Happiness
Bequia is well-provisioned for health care and holistic services. The hospital is in town – we were there for both vaccines and PCR tests and were always treated very well by Sister Simmonds and her team. On the same road as the hospital, you’ll find a good pharmacy that also has some grocery products, both the ‘state’ and private dentist, the hospital pharmacy, and Dr Lugo’s office. Cuban Dr Lugo is the chief doctor at the hospital, but she also runs a private practice where you pay EC$50 for an appointment. She was kind and efficient when I needed medical care, but it’s good to factor in time for a visit as there are no appointments, people are just taken in turn.
I spent a few weeks seeing the local chiropractor, Dr Greg Thomas, who really helped me. Compared to the prices in the UK he’s very affordable, and we like that he does a ‘pay what you can’ clinic for local people.
For more relaxing care, we used two very good spas. Serenity Day Spa at the Belmont Inn and Suites did a very reasonably priced couples massage in a very professional setting. I preferred the massages done by Danielle who owns Sunny Spa, just beside Gingerbread. The setting is more rustic, but Dani will really work with you for a powerful deep tissue if you need it. I also had pedicures and a manicure with Dani which were very affordable.
Things to do
Bequia is a busy little island with lots to do, both on land or in the sea.
Hiking is my favourite thing to do, and we managed a couple of good hikes. We used the WikiLoc app which really helps with finding trails and ideas for walks. We hiked up Ma Peggy by walking to Friendship Bay, then up to the summit, and down to Lower Bay. Coming down was tough but it was very rewarding. Our hike to Spring Top which was mostly on roads was far less demanding and no less fun.
One thing we’re really glad we did was to make use of our extended time by taking our PADI Open Water diving certification. We did this with Dive Bequia, as we had gotten to know their diver Max. Mirounga was moored between dive boats, and we often gave Max a ride back to shore after he had moored the dive boats at the end of the day. We completed our online theory course, and Max was an excellent tutor. He had endless patience when, during our confined water dives, I just couldn’t manage the remove and replace mask exercises. He gave me time and helped me work out a good technique, and I managed in the end. Our open water dives at Devil’s Table were exciting and fun, especially the wreck dive. We’ll definitely go out with Max to explore more sites when we’re back.
If you like beaches, you’re really in for a treat. Both Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay are stunning, with Lower Bay being slightly more rustic. Both have white sand, great snorkelling, and of course palm trees. The walk along both using the Princess Margaret Trail is lovely, and you’ll often have a friendly dog or three for company. I got very lucky and there was a group of cruisers who got together in the mornings for yoga and exercise followed by a swim, and there were a couple of cruisers beach bonfires while we were there. The area under the almond tree near Jacks and Fay’s stall is a great gathering spot. If you prefer loungers, you can rent these from Jack’s and a few other vendors on Princess Margaret Beach. On the windward side, the beaches are rugged and beautiful but do suffer from an invasion of sargassum seaweed.
One of the other main things to do in Bequia is drink, and be social. Tiny Ollivierre was running a rum shop tour one week, which we had a great time on. A mix of cruisers and retired incomers, it was a fun social afternoon visiting bars around Friendship we wouldn’t have known were there.
If you visit Bequia, what’s happening and what’s open varies a lot based on the time of year. We were there in low-season, so it was quiet. It’s always worth following the Bequia What’s On! Facebook page, and looking at the weekly BEGOS publication for insider info.
Things we plan to do in future
Despite feeling like we did, saw, and ate a lot in Bequia, we’re aware of a few things we didn’t get round to. I’ve already mentioned that we’d like to do a pottery class, and dive at more sites. It would be nice to get involved in more group activities, like the art classes at The Hub. I also really want to hike to Bequia Head, the northern tip of the island.
There’s definitely more eating and drinking to do – we’d like to visit Firefly for a plantation tour and dinner, maybe even a night’s stay. We really should go to the Grenadine Sea Salt shop and buy some. We never got round to the weekend set menu at Fernando’s Hideaway on Lower Bay, with classic Caribbean cuisine, and we somehow never went to Bar One, the floating bar. Finally, we’d like to take advantage of a day pass to Bequia Beach Hotel some day.
Bequia really is a special place, and after less than 2 weeks away we’re realising how much its unique combination of amenities, social scene, and natural beauty have spoiled us. It’s our favourite of the 20 or so Caribbean islands we’ve visited so far.