Forget Mustique, beautiful Bequia is the true Caribbean hotspot
Substitute big-brand resorts for deserted beaches and charming locals and you have beautiful Bequia
Sounds of reggae music, lapping waves and laughter float in the air around me.
I stretch out my toes and push them deeper into the soft sands of Friendship Beach as I sway to the beat. I’m busy twirling around on the beach-turned-dancefloor at Bequia Beach Hotel, rum punch in hand and underneath a sky illuminated by twinkling stars, their shine so bright it leaves me literally starstruck.
There’s a moment during most holidays when your mindset shifts away from the chaos of everyday life to something much more relaxed and carefree. Sometimes, it takes days to leave that stress behind or to get out of the habit of constantly checking emails or social media. I’m usually the one frantically connecting with home and work, trying to finalise things I should have done before I jetted off. Not this time. Just three short hours after touching down on the tiny landing strip that is Bequia airport, I was strutting my stuff to a Bob Marley classic without a care in the world. I was on Caribbean time.
Dancing in the sand is something of a rite of passage at Bequia Beach Hotel. Music plays most evenings, with live bands getting guests’ toes tapping during dinner.
After a feast of barbecued lobster, the property’s owner, Bengt Morstedt – or Mr Bengt, as he’s fondly known across the island – encourages me and the rest of the group to take off our shoes. Within seconds, our entire table is up on the dance floor. It isn’t long before numerous guests, many of whom travel to Bequia every year, follow suit. Flip‑flops, boat shoes and Louboutins are all flung to one side for a moment of excitement.
“People remember these kinds of memories for ever,” says Bengt, a Swedish lawyer who fell in love with Bequia (pronounced Beckway) on a sailing trip in 2004. He refers to himself as an ‘accidental hotelier’; his initial plan to build a private villa changed when he discovered the island could also be reached using small planes, as well as by boat. The small slice of land he first purchased grew significantly over time and now boasts the 58 suites and cottages, two restaurants and two pools that make the Bequia Beach Hotel.
The colours of the manicured gardens, which make up a large chunk of the almost four-hectare plot, made me smile every morning: sky‑high coconut palms stand proudly among bright blossoms, like soldiers on parade. The exotic and delicious scent of frangipani fills my nostrils as I stroll through the grounds of this cute boutique.
Home from home
This place is a real family affair, with Bengt’s children and their partners heavily involved. When they’re on‑site, they’re all constantly on the go, charming guests with a friendly, carefree vibe that sets the tone for the property.
There’s not an ounce of pretentiousness here, it’s simply relaxed, laid-back luxury. There’s no razzmatazz, no glittering chandeliers and certainly no strict dress code. If you’re looking for clean-cut modern design, perhaps this rustic gem isn’t for you. The hotel’s style pays homage to a bygone era – a fusion of colonial meets old Caribbean, with a dash of quirkiness thrown in. It’s charming but may not appeal to all. Vintage travel posters adorn the walls, harking back to a golden age of travel and complementing the antique furniture that beautifully embellishes each eclectic room.
Bequia Beach Hotel couldn’t be more fitting to its surroundings. This charming island is what I envisage the Caribbean of 50 years ago to have been like. Spanning just seven square miles, Bequia is one of 32 islands that make up St Vincent and the Grenadines. And while much of the Caribbean is inundated with tourists, this idyllic, paradisiacal island remains a well-kept secret.
There are no big resort hotels, no chain restaurants and very few paved roads and cars. This is the Caribbean of yesteryear, a sleepy isle ringed by dozens of deserted beaches and friendly life-loving locals who wave every time you drive past in one of the island’s open-top truck-turned‑taxis.
There’s only one town, Port Elizabeth, which is the heart of the island. Here, stalls selling anything from rattan beach bags and bikinis to bananas and coconut water line the roads. An enormous almond tree is the local meeting point and a hive of activity for neatly dressed schoolchildren. A bright‑blue painted hole in the wall bearing the name ‘Bequia’s Pizza Hut’ brings a smile to all passing tourists.
Vibrant gingerbread-style wooden houses with white picket fences wrap around the waterfront of Admiralty Bay, the multicoloured paint complementing the pale petals of the frangipani which grows everywhere in Bequia.
An amble along Belmont Walkway and the Princess Margaret Trail showcases some of the island’s finest bars and restaurants. Whaleboner Bar serves up the best rum punch, while Maranne’s is the place to go for ice cream and sorbets. By the time I reach Jack’s Beach Bar it’s full to the brim, the yachting crowd joining locals to enjoy sumptuous servings of fried chicken, lobster rolls and out‑of‑this‑world cocktails. I opt for a sun lounger and a rum punch – the perfect way to idle away hours as the sun slowly dips to the horizon.
Locals play football, heading and volleying the ball on the edge of the ocean. Giggling kids jump in unison into the crystal-clear waters from a nearby jetty, cooling off after a day at school and joined by frolicking tourists who run in and out of the sea as quickly as the tide washes backwards and forwards. The music from Jack’s fills the air. Time slowly drifts by as one reggae song follows another and sunset turns the sky a perfect shade of pink.
Yachting is big business in the Grenadines, with dozens of glamorous vessels dropping anchor in the harbour of Admiralty Bay each day. So, don’t be surprised if the person sitting next to you in the local ramshackle rum shack is actually a millionaire yacht owner.
Guests keen to join the yachting set can book a trip on Bequia Beach Hotel’s very own yacht, Star of the Sea. With room to sleep 12 guests, the boat can be booked for anything from afternoon sunset cruises to longer voyages to the Tobago Cays and beyond.
We set sail across the bay on an hour-long sailing to the neighbouring island of Mustique. Uncharacteristically rough seas meant we couldn’t wait to reach land and discover the secluded islands to which musicians, media moguls, movie stars and royals retreat each year.
Unless you’ve booked a villa or are staying at the renowned Cotton House hotel, there isn’t actually a great deal to see and do here. Basil’s Bar and a few boutiques offer the only real signs of life. Yes, Mustique is paradise, with perfect cerulean waters and epic beaches, but it lacks the Caribbean-ness that Bequia so proudly radiates.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Bequia is Mustique’s much cooler, less pretentious, and less‑known little sister. The sleepy, untouched island is my Caribbean paradise, especially when I’m dancing barefoot under a canopy of stars.
Book it: Rooms at Bequia Beach Hotel start from $300 per night including breakfast and taxes. Luxury operator Carrier offers seven nights’ all-inclusive in a Junior Plantation Suite from £3,885. The price includes private transfers, flights and fast-track business service at Gatwick.
Jack’s Beach Bar
Located on pristine Princess Margaret Beach, Jack’s serves up delicious cocktails and a bounty of fresh seafood. This place is popular with the yachting community. It’s owned by the same family which owns Bequia Beach Hotel, and there’s a shuttle service between the two locations.
Set on a beachfront coconut plantation, Sugar Reef is as trendy as they come, with furniture made from shells, a farm-to-table menu and jaw‑dropping views across Crescent Beach. Order a divine roti or curry alongside a rum punch and you’ll never want to leave.
This floating bar sits within the harbour in Port Elizabeth. Water taxis are available from Princess Margaret Beach and the harbour. Order a Hairoun beer or a cocktail and admire the best views – especially at sunset – across Admiralty Bay.
Travelling in style
One of the reasons Bequia has remained a hidden gem of the Caribbean is due to the travel connections. Guests travelling from the UK have to fly to either Barbados or Saint Lucia before connecting to Bequia. Caribbean carriers such as SVG are available but connection times can be tight, so to avert any stress to guests and to ensure they are completely wrapped up in luxury, Bequia Beach Hotel bought an aircraft and now offers a chartered jet service. Bequia Air operates a nine-seat Beechcraft King Air B200. Flights cost $649 return or $399 one-way.
For VIP guests, recommend they also book the Signature Elite Class service which is available at Gatwick. Clients enjoy access to a separate departure lounge and don’t have to enter the main terminal. Going through check-in and security has never been so easy, especially as you get to enjoy a glass of English sparkling wine while your documents are looked at. Staff then whisk you to the plane by car, dropping you under the wings of your aircraft – VIP travelling at its very best.
Initially, the Signature Elite Class service, which is also offered at Luton airport, was available only for those flying privately but is now an option for all commercial flights across all arrivals and departures. The service from Gatwick costs £660 for the first passenger for one‑way use, £310 for each additional passenger, £120 for children aged between two and 12 and is free for infants. The costs from Luton airport are lower.
Hollie is editor of Aspire’s print and online products. She is responsible for the running of the club and ensuring the content produced and the events organised are relevant to the Aspire audience. She was previously deputy news editor and cruise writer for sister title Travel Weekly. She loves exploring new destinations and is gradually ticking new countries off her list. She most enjoys writing about cruise, South America and Japan. Before working in the travel industry she held news reporting roles at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.