10 Reasons You Need to Visit the Lesser Antilles
May 28, 2015 | By Bryn Symonds |
If you find Venezuela on a map, you’ll also find a string of tiny islands going north. These are the Lesser Antilles and they ring the outer edge of the Caribbean Sea. They are small and unique, and places most people have never visited. Here are 10 reasons you should go.
1) English Harbour in Antigua
Antigua was an important part of the British presence in the Caribbean. The old fortifications make for a change of pace from the beach (if you need one). Nelson’s Dockyard has been nicely restored and Shirley Heights is a good walk with a rewarding view over the bay.
2) Rendezvous Bay in Antigua
Rendezvous Bay is the definition of idyllic. It’s the kind of beautiful that should only exist in art or the imagination. It’s long and soft and virtually empty. You can only get there by boat or a 90-minute walk through the rainforest. But it is more than worth it.
3) Arikok National Wildlife Park in Aruba
20% of Aruba is dedicated to this protected area. You can rent a car and drive its 11 km of roads, but the best way to experience it is on a guided tour with a park ranger. You’ll see divi-divi trees, cacti, aloe and any number of birds and reptiles. The Arikok National Park conservation fee is $11 per adult (children under 17 are free of charge). The tours are free; they only need to be booked at least one day in advance.
4) Screaming Eagle Restaurant in Aruba
Food is huge in Aruba, and, as you might expect, seafood is top of the menu. The Screaming Eagle near Eagle Beach has a French fusion vibe and serves creations like tuna tartar with fried soft shell crab, and wakame salad with spicy papaya mayonnaise. They also have a nicely stocked wine cellar and a bartender who knows what he’s doing. Check out their menu and make a reservation in advance.
5) Seafood Friday in Saint Lucia
For most of the week Sant Lucia’s Anse La Raye is a tiny and endearing fishing village that makes for a relaxing afternoon of browsing the few stores and chatting over cool drinks. But come Friday night, locals from all over the island follow the coast road to the weekly fish fry. Street vendors roll out and the music gets loud. It’s a lot of fun but a bit wild later in the night.
6) Hot Springs in Saint Lucia
Around Soufriere [su • frer], there are two popular places for a hot dip. The Sulphur Springs are known as the world’s only drive-in volcano and for their naturally hot swimming pool. The other place is the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens & Mineral Baths. It’s a Napoleon-era estate, and the European-style baths and gardens are very tranquil and open to the public.
7) Bean to Bar in Grenada
One of the hottest trends in Grenada is chocolate. The rich volcanic soil produces a unique bean. The current food trend of organic, ethical and authentic has also touched the island, giving rise to Grenada Chocolate Co. and the bean to bar philosophy. You can tour their farm and check out their blog.
8) Diving in Grenada
All of the islands of the Lesser Antilles have great beaches, clear water and spectacular scuba diving. Grenada has more than 50 dive sites, with something for all levels of experience. They also have a number of shipwrecks and a unique underwater sculpture park, which make for great photos.
9) Willemstad in Curaçao
The primary European influence in Curaçao is not English or Spanish, it’s Dutch, and you’ll find this distinction everywhere you look. Willemstad, the capital, is a lively port and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s full of colourful European architecture, an intriguing patois, and Dutch/Caribbean food creations you’ve never seen before, like keshi yená (stuffed Gouda cheese), and funchi (delicious fried corn bread), all available at Marshe Bieuw, the old market downtown.
10) Klein Curaçao
Curaçao has some great beaches, like Boka St. Michiel in a small fishing village, or Blue Bay not far from Willemstad. But by far the best is Klein Curaçao. It’s a tiny island two hours by boat from Curaçao. A day trip here is all about soft sand, snorkelling, scuba diving and beach barbecues.