Saint Vincent and the Grenadines originally known as “Hairoun” – home of the blessed) is made up of thirty-two (32) islands and cays. Some of the smaller islands are privately owned, only nine (9) of which are inhabited. The total area of the islands is 340 sq. km. (130 sq. mi.); it is volcanic and mountainous, with the highest peak, Soufriere, rising to 1,219 meters (4,000 ft.). Kingstown is the country's capital on Saint Vincent; other popular cities include Barrouallie, Chataubelair, and Georgetown.
Saint Vincent is the cultural hub of the islands where most of the population lives. Kingstown, along its southwestern shore is the country's capital, a bubbly cultural affair marked by a decidedly relaxing West Indies atmosphere. The island affords a number of great hikes, most notable of which is the journey up the La Soufriére volcano, a tall active volcano as majestic as it is volatile. The Grenadines pick up where Grenada leaves off and stretch northwards till they hit Saint Vincent. They are a collection of 30 islands, only a dozen of which are inhabited. Most are blessed with perfect Caribbean beaches and diving waters and many of the islands also afford great windsurfing conditions. Cruises are a great way of seeing the Grenadines and Saint Vincent. Budget travelers will have to pick their islands wisely, since some are geared almost exclusively to the rich and famous.
The first settlers were the Arawaks who were largely displaced by the Caribs, who fiercely resisted settlement by the Europeans. In 1719 the Caribs joined forces with the French to oust the British. In 1783, under the Treaty of Versailles St. Vincent was ceded to the British. The Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century.
African slaves–whether shipwrecked or escaped from St. Lucia and Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent–intermarried with the Caribs and became known as "black Caribs". Beginning in 1719, French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar on plantations worked by African slaves. In 1763, St. Vincent was ceded to Britain. Restored to French rule in 1779, St. Vincent was regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.
Slavery was abolished in 1834; the resulting labor shortages on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and East Indians in the 1860s. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn of the century. In 1969 the island gained autonomy and was granted independence on 27 October 1979.The nationality of St Vincent & the Grenadines is referred to as-Vincentian. The total population is approximately 119,000 persons. The country's official language is English, but a French patois may be heard on some of the Grenadine Islands.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state (yet like so many other Caribbean islands they are supposedly independent) and is represented on the island by a governor general. The parliament is a unicameral body (one legislative chamber), consisting of 15 elected members and six appointed senators. The governor general appoints senators, four on the advice of the prime minister and two on the advice of the leader of the opposition. The parliamentary term of office is 5 years, although the prime minister may call elections at any time. As in other English-speaking Caribbean countries, the judiciary in St. Vincent is rooted in British common law. There are 11 courts in three magisterial districts.
Banana production employs upwards of 60% of the work force and accounts for 50% of merchandise exports in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with an emphasis on the main island of St. Vincent. Such reliance on one crop has made the economy vulnerable to fluctuations in banana prices and reduced European Union trade preferences. To combat these vulnerabilities, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is focused on diversifying its economy away from reliance on bananas. Recently, there has been a parallel reduction in licit agriculture and a rise in marijuana cultivation, making St. Vincent and the Grenadines the largest marijuana producer in the Eastern Caribbean.
Tourism is oriented toward yachting, with havens located on most of the Grenadines and also at Young Island, off the southern tip of St. Vincent. Posh resorts have been created on many of the smaller Grenadines, with villas and cottages built alongside small private beaches. In 2000 there were a total of 1,747 hotel rooms with 3,494 beds. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines consist of dozens of uninhabited islands but also the main islands like Union Island, Saint Vincent and Mustique are well worth a visit.
There is wide choice and you can either hop from one island to another by public ferries or take an organized tour, for example, with a sailing yacht to the Tobago Cays in the south of the archipelago. Macaroni Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Mustique has a limited number of large, beautiful homes, which belong to many rich and famous people. The white-sand beach is well maintained, has discreet grass huts with tables, and typically only a few people are on the beach on any given day.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines' currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared among members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries. The ECCB has kept the EC$ pegged at EC$2.7=U.S. $1.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative that grants duty-free entry into the United States for many goods. St. Vincent and the Grenadines also belongs to the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Politically stable and economically growing – if slowly – St Vincent and the Grenadines is a celebrity choice: luxurious, but out of the way. Prices on the islands do reflect the levels of luxury, and some regions are certainly millionaires’ havens. Though that is the case, there are cheaper properties and plots of land available to off plan investors willing to look for them. The friendly people, wonderful way of life and beautiful island all combine to provide something of a rarity – a luxury location, generally un-spoilt by throngs of tourists.