St Vincent and the Grenadines, currently the preserve of yachtsmen and celebrities, is about to see some changes. Tourism is being developedon this small cluster of 30 islands and cays, with major resorts being built on St Vincent and Bequia. Will it change the vibe of these laid-back islands? Watch this space.

St Vincent and the Grenadines, currently the preserve of yachtsmen and celebrities, is about to see some changes. Tourism is being developedon this small cluster of 30 islands and cays, with major resorts being built on St Vincent and Bequia. Will it change the vibe of these laid-back islands? Watch this space.

Best hotel

What the islands lack in size they make up for in individuality, from the exclusivity of Mustique's Cotton House (001 784 456 4777; www.cottonhouseresort.com), one of only two hotels on the island, to the desert-island resort of Petit St Vincent (001 954 963 7401; www.psvresort.com).

However, if spending two weeks lying on a beach isn't your thing, then head for the Young Island Resort (001 784 458 4826; www.youngisland.com), an islet off St Vincent's southern coast, is a real retreat of 27 cottages with no air conditioning, televisions or telephones. Doubles start at US$403 (£237) per night, half board.

Across the water, a more modest option is the Mariner's Hotel (001 784 457 4000; www.marinershotel.com) in Villa, a village on St Vincent's only stretch of white-sand beach (the rest is volcanic black sand). Doubles start at US$181 (£107), room only.

Best restaurant

Young Island's restaurant is worth visiting for the bread alone. Eight mouth-watering varieties from cinnamon to coconut are baked throughout the day. Another popular choice is the waterfront Lime n' Pub Restaurant (001 784 458 4227) in Villa, St Vincent, run by eccentric expat David Dunn, where a three-course meal will set you back around East Caribbean $80 (£16).

Best cultural attraction

St Vincent, was first inhabited by Ciboney Indians several thousand years ago andsubsequently settled by Arawaks, Caribs and Europeans. Fort Charlotte,built by the British Army in 1806 as the island's chief defence against the French and Caribs, is currently being renovated, but the original cannons are still on display. The Cathedral of the Assumption in the capital, Kingstown,with its black bricks made from volcanic sand and Moorish and Romanesque influences, is another reminder of the islands' colourful history.

Best shopping

There is little to attract die-hard shoppers on any of the islands but the daily food market in central Kingstown, a cavernous building filled with stalls selling fresh spices, home-made chilli sauce and fruit and vegetables, is well worth a visit.

Best sightseeing

St Vincent is a nature enthusiast's dream with nature trails, tropical forest, a botanical garden and an active volcano, La Soufrière, which last erupted in 1979. There are two spectacular waterfalls on St Vincent, the Falls of Baleine and Trinity Falls, beneath which visitors can swim in invigorating pools. The Grenadines also offer pristine reefs for scuba diving and snorkelling, especially around the Tobago Cays, where spiny lobsters, tropical fish, octopuses and even the odd dolphin can be found.

Land tours can all be arranged through the eco-tour operator HazEco (001 784 457 8634; www.hazecotours.com) while boat trips to the islands and reefs, as well as diving and snorkelling tours, are available from Fantasea Tours (001 784 457 4477; www.fantaseatours.com).

Best nightspot

Basil's Bar (001 784 488 8350; www.basilsbar.com) on Mustique still manages to pull in the crowds. Mick Jagger is just one of the more famous regulars of the haunt, which is as welcoming to tourists as it is to celebrities. Standing on stilts above the turquoise sea, it's just another bar most of the year, but during peak season it hosts events from a Blues Festival to weekly jump-ups.

How to get there

The easiest base from which to explore the Grenadines is St Vincent. However, until the planned international airport opens in Argyll, St Vincent, in four years' time (subject to funding), getting there continues to be a relatively strained affair. The easiest connection is made in Barbados with one of the Caribbean carriers, Caribbean Star (001 268 480 2561; www.flycaribbeanstar.com), Liat (001 784 458 4841; www.liatairline.com), Mustique Airways (001 784 458 4380; www.mustique.com) and SVG Air (001 784 456 5610; www.svgair.com). But be prepared to adapt to "Caribbean time" - Liat has been dubbed "Leave Islands Any Time" with good reason and visitors can expect to wait up to four hours for connecting flights. Expect to pay from US$135 (£79) return. British Airways (0870-850 9850; www.ba.com) and Virgin Atlantic (08705 747747; www.virgin-atlantic.com) operate direct flights from Gatwick to Bridgetown in Barbados, with return fares from £400. BWIA (0870-499 2942; www.bwee.com) also operates flights from regional airports to Barbados. Packages are available through tour operators such as Harlequin Worldwide Travel (01708 850300; www.harlequinholidays.com), Kuoni (0870-990 9905; www.kuoni.co.uk) and British Airways Holidays (0870-243 3407; www.baholidays.com).

For further information contact the Ministry of Tourism of St Vincent and the Grenadines (020-7937 6570; www.svgtourism.com).

Sophie Lam was a guest of the Ministry of Tourism of St Vincent and the Grenadines. She flew with British Airways from Gatwick to Barbados and from Barbados to St Vincent with Caribbean Star

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