BEQUIA means Island of the Cloud from the old Carib word Becouya. Pronounced Bek-Way, this island lies nine miles south of St. Vincent and is the largest of the Grenadine Islands, measuring over seven square miles. It is an island on which life is completely oriented to the sea, little changed by time. This island was originally inhabited by the Arawaks, and later by the Carib Indians.
The spirit of the Bequia people is so congenial that visitors enjoy both building and renting houses in their favorite areas, whether in Spring, Belmont, Friendship or some other quiet corner. A tourist booth is available at the entrance to the main wharf. The people here speak English, so please ask first before taking a photograph of an individual.
Here you can watch men build their boats by hand. Boats that have been built here include double-ended sailing dinghies, fishing boats, cargo vessels and sailing yachts. Loren Dewar still keeps busy building Bequia dinghies at the boatyard. The shipwrights of Bequia have a long tradition of building wooden sailing vessels.
Today, the industry is carried on by model boat-builders who display their exquisitely crafted replicas in their workshops. The chance to pick one up as a souvenir is by itself worth a trip to Hamilton, Bequia. The Sargeant family takes custom orders for individualized yachts and production charter boats.
The children of Bequia are boat-builders as well. When they are too young to build the real boats they make boats from coconut shells and hold races.
Admiralty Bay, the island’s natural harbor, is a favorite anchoring spot for yachtsmen from all over the world. It can be reached by boat and plane and its seclusion means that it has retained its age-old tradition of boat building, whaling and fishing.
The island is encircled by gold sand beaches. It’s an excellent area for sailing, and scuba diving and snorkelling.
The island is ringed by seven miles of fringing reef where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic, teeming with life and little explored.
The quaint waterfront of Port Elizabeth is lined with bars, shops and restaurants. Good bargains can be found on souveniers in the unique craft shops. Please keep in mind that prices are fixed; attempts to barter are not considered to be in good taste. Bathing suits should never be worn in town or along the main road without adequate covering.
Taxis can be found to get around the island. Water taxis are also available, but as some are uninsured, and do not carry adequate life-saving equipment, enter these boats at your own risk. Water taxis which are accredited by the Bequia Tourist Committee have numbers on the bow.
Bequia’s population is about 6,000 and the community is made up of fishermen, sailors, master boat-builders and whalers. The ritual whaling has been done for centuries with sail boats and hand-harpoons, with the whaler taking as much risk as the whale. Catches average one a year and in no way threaten the species.
Commercial whaling was a mainstay of the economy on Bequia in the late 19th century. Whalers would go out in open double-ended boats from Bequia and Canouan. When a whale was caught, the meat, bones and teeth were distributed to the crews and sold to the islanders.
The Bequia Easter Regatta is a popular annual event that was started in 1967. This race has events for all classes of boats and is a great spectator event. It is organized by the Bequia Sailing Club. Into its fifteenth year, the regatta will be sponsored by Heineken and Pepsi.
Festivities include various boat races, a D.J. competition, backgammon tournament, swimming races and the old favorite greasy pole. Prizes are awarded, and the spirit of competition and comeradery is in the air. A popular local establishment on shore called De Reef, hosts food, drink and dancing.
There are six (6) hotels and a handful of guest houses such as Julie’s and Keegan’s on the island. Friendship Bay Hotel, located on twelve acres overlooking Friendship Bay, is the largest, with twenty-seven (27) renovated rooms. Also on Friendship Bay is the German-owned Bequia Beach Club. Plantation House’s accommodations consist of seventeen (17) cabanas and eight (8) rooms in the colonial-style main house; this is located on Admiralty Bay. Also located there is the Frangipani Hotel, shown here. It has a casual ambiance, and their Thursday night BBQ is always well attended. Spring Hotel is the most remote. It is located in a 200 year-old plantation, and has ten (10) rooms.
The Hawksbill Turtle project is a current intervention by man on behalf of the endangered Hawksbill Turtle population. Restoration efforts are centered here at the sanctuary shown to the left on Bequia.
One spot made famous by National Geographic is Moonhole. West of Paget Farm, on the southwestern end of Bequia, is a private development of seventeen houses designed by American Tom Johnston. The houses are built of stone, hanging off cliffs, and sometimes enveloped by them. According to villagers at Paget Farm, the space seen through Moonhole rock circle captures the sky such that it looks like a moon peeking through.