“Where do we stamp into the country?” I asked as we docked at the tiny, wooden pier. “At the airport” was the captain’s reply. True, the airport would be the typical place one receives their arrival stamp, but we had arrived by boat, not air! Needless to say, the customs and immigration system in the Caribbean is pretty laid back, along with everything else. After waiting for a minibus to pick us up from the side of the road, we made our way to the airport to check-in to Union, the southernmost island in the nation of St. Vincent and The Grenadines.
We were greeted at Kings Landing Hotel by a very kind woman and the owner, who definitely could’ve been a Kanye West look-a-like. Our sea view bungalow was steps from the water with an awesome view of the Clifton Harbor, kite surfers and of Happy Island: a man-made island just off shore with nothing more than a bar (stay tuned for the article about this very happy place!)
The streets were lively and funky, and the people were warm and welcoming. Instantly, we got the impression that Union Island isn’t really a top tourist destination – which is what we loved about it. Buildings were in disrepair with colourful paint chipping off; dogs roamed the streets as if they owned the place; people sauntered around drinking and smoking pot at any (and all) hours of the day; and there was the occasional crazy person walking around yelling out obscenities!
You know when you arrive somewhere and you get the feeling that it’s a place you’d like to stay awhile? For us, that was Union. This island wasn’t being “put-on” for tourists. It was rugged, unpretentious, real and had a very Caribbean vibe to it.
We got to know some of the local people at the nearby shops and restaurants and always bought our mangoes, avocados and bananas from Sam, the side-of-the-road vendor. Located right next to the popular fruit market (also known as the rip-off market), Sam instantly gave us the local price for produce and had the biggest smile.
Another woman named Joy set up a BBQ each Friday and Saturday night. A massive plate of chicken with 3 different salads would arrive at our table, accompanied by her homemade passionfruit or soursop juice. Joy went above and beyond when she opened up especially for us and our two Canadian friends on her day off (Sunday), when everywhere else was closed. We arrived for dinner and found the table set for four, complete with placemats, utensils, cups and napkins. We were VIPs! Thanks Joy!
We also enjoyed the company of the staff at Kings Landing Hotel, Barracuda Restaurant and the Yacht Provisions Cafe. It was nice to wake up to friendly faces greeting us at the hotel and to have smiling service throughout the day.
Not only were the people great, but the sights and scenery were as well. We had heard about the local hangout of Chatham Bay and hopped on a loud, ancient, golf cart to take us from Clifton to the top of a jungley foot path. We were determined to get some form of exercise on this trip so we chose to hike down to the beach. The walk was green and lush and definitely reminded us of our hikes in Grenada. At the bottom of the trail, we were greeted with a few rum shacks, a restaurant and a golden stretch of beach.
Other days were spent enjoying the company of our two new Canadian friends (Andy and his daughter, Dakota), relaxing on one of the most gorgeous stretches of white sand, walking around the town and eating way too many pieces of authentic Italian pizza!
We explored this tiny island of only 3,000 people over the course of 8 days. For being such a small island (5 kms x 1.5 kms), we thought we may get bored, but we didn’t! Set only 90 kms SW of Barbados, 10 kms from the famous Tobago Cays and within sight of Carriacou and Grenada, Union Island is the perfect base for exploring the southern Caribbean…and we did just that!
Stay tuned to hear about the Caribbean’s coolest bar and our day of sailing through the idyllic Tobago Cays!
Traveller’s Notes & Tips:
Where to Sleep:
We stayed at Kings Landing Hotel and loved the seaside bungalow. They are currently doing renovations to improve the property. There’s a pool, sea view, fantastic staff and restaurant. Currently, rooms range from $126USD to $200USD. After the reno’s, the owner plans to have different package plans available to include meals, booze and tours. Contact Marius by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to Eat:
1. Barracuda Restaurant (an Italian owned and operated place). Located on the waterfront road, next to the main ferry pier at Clifton. Pizzas from $25EC, pastas from $35EC.
2. Sparrow’s Beach Bar (French owned). Ask your hotel to contact the bar and they will come and pick you up and bring you back, for free. The beach here is gorgeous. Beers $7EC, Burgers $20-$30EC, Mains $35EC and up. Lounge chairs are free is you eat and there’s an outdoor shower.
3. Captain Gourmet Yacht Provisions (French owned and operated). A shop/cafe mainly for people stocking up on provisions for their boat. Located in the center of town next to the fruit market. The cafe serves delicious, strong coffees $8EC for an Americano, breakfasts $10EC and up and other snacks.
4. Joy’s BBQ (locally owned and operated). A few steps from Kings Landing Hotel. This local woman cooks up a mean BBQ on Fridays and Saturdays! BBQ chicken, pork tail, ribs or fish with three different salads costs $18EC. She also makes and bottles fresh fruit juice for $5EC. She even has her own labels on the bottles!
5. Aqua Restaurant (Italian owned), located right on the beach at Chatham Bay. Call ahead for a pick-up, or take a boat over to the bay. This is a gorgeous restaurant/bar. Beers $10EC, chicken roti $30EC, mains $50EC and up.
A big thank you to Marius and the staff at Kings Landing Hotel for hosting us during our stay on Union Island. As always, all thoughts, opinions and reviews remain our own.