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Canouan Island, St Vincent and the Grenadines Travel Guide
Last Updated: Jun-26-2012, Hits: 6,800, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Location: Caribbean
Geography: Island, Beach
Vacation Type: Romantic, Relaxation
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Expensive
Attractions: Golfing, Scenery, Boating, Fishing, Hiking, Scuba & Snorkeling, Spa & Wellness

Facts and Stats:
Population: Approximately 1,100
Land Area: 5 sq mi
Government: Parliamentary Democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Country Dialing Code: 784
Languages: English, Vincentian English
Electricity: 220V
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar and U.S. dollar
Time Zone: GMT -5 (-4 summer)
Current Time:

Canouan Island, which means "Turtle Island" because of the many turtles around, is located in the Grenadine Islands and is home to a couple of luxury resorts and several pristine beaches. While the northern 2/3 of the island is dedicated to the resorts, the lower third is populated by locals in the village of Charlestown Bay.

Although Canouan island is only 1.25 miles by 3 miles, it is still the 3rd largest in the Grenadines. A large barrier reef spans the eastern (Atlantic Ocean) side of the island and the Caribbean Sea is on the western side. Just 5 miles south is the Tobago Cays Marine Park which is made up of 5 uninhabited cays, and is a popular snorkeling and diving spot. Canouan is located approximately 1,600 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, 25 miles south of St Vincent, and about half way between Mustique and Union Islands. The highest point on the island is Mt Royal at 877 feet.

Brief History:
It is believed that the first people to inhabit St Vincent were the Ciboney people from South America who were gradually displaced to Haiti and Cuba by the Arawaks (Taino) from Venezuela. The Arawaks survived here for 1500 years utilizing their farming and fishing skills. The Arawaks were overrun by Caribs shortly before the area was discovered by Europeans.

When the Europeans came, they overtook most of the islands in the Caribbean, but struggled with St Vincent which, due to its geography, was able to repel their attacks longer than most other islands. St Vincent became a haven for Caribs displaced on other islands and freed African slaves (known as "Black Caribs") who came over from Barbados. As the population of Black Caribs swelled, the original Caribs ("Yellow Caribs") began to get pushed off of their lands. This led the Yellow Caribs to allow the French to establish a settlement in 1719. The Black Caribs took to the hills and continued their resistance.

By 1748, St. Vincent was still considered too difficult to deal with, and in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle it was officially declared neutral by Britain and France.

By 1763, the British decided to claim the island which led to the First Carib War that ended in a stalemate in 1773. In 1779, the French easily took the island without a struggle. With the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, St. Vincent was ceded back to the British.

In 1795, the Second Carib War began. Tribal forces under a chief named Duvallier made their way down the eastern coast of the island, burning British plantations. Meanwhile, various tribes under the leadership of Carib chief, Chatoyer, pushed British forces down the western coast toward Kingstown. The two met in the hills above the capital. Unfortunately for the Caribs, Chatoyer was killed when British forces stormed Dorsetshire Hill, and his dream of providing an island home for the remaining Carib population died with him.

By 1797, the remaining Black Caribs were forced to surrender. The 5,000 Black Caribs were then sent to what is now Honduras and Belize, where their descendants still live. The few Yellow Caribs left on the island withdrew to the northern region of the island, near Sandy Bay, where their descendants still live today.

In 1871, St. Vincent became a part of the British colony of the Windward Islands. In 1969, it became a British Associated State, which allowed for full internal autonomy, while Britain handled foreign affairs and defense. On October 27, 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines became a fully independent state within the British Commonwealth.

Throughout much of its history, Canouan island was a sleepy fishing village until Canouan Resorts Development (CRD) Limited was formed. In 1990, CRD signed a 99 year lease agreement with the government of St Vincent to develop resorts on the island. They currently have developed 2 resorts, constructed the airport, and built the town's police station. They also brought much of the infrastructure to the island including electricity, clean water, and internet.

People & Culture:
In 1990, Canouan Island was an undeveloped fishing village with a population of only 200, most of whom were women and children as many of the men had gone elsewhere for work. It was during this year that Italian Antonio Saladino came to the island and shortly after formed CRD. As mentioned above, CRD brought infrastructure, resorts, and jobs to the island.

To some, Saladino may seem something of a savior, but this is a story that has played out in nearly every place developed by wealthy outsiders. While many locals now work for the resorts, and have water and electricity, they have also lost two thirds of their island. Unless employed by the resort, locals aren't even allowed on the rest of their island, and apparently, the police aren't either. Furthermore, there have been complaints about dredging in the bay that may affect the fragile reef offshore and other environmentally unfriendly development practices. All of this built for people who are whisked from the airport to the gated resort community, and will likely never spend time in the village or understand the local culture.

Money & Costs:
Visiting Canouan is very expensive. While there are budget accomodations available, typically in the form of guest houses or apartments, there is virtually no information online about them.

St Vincent and the Grenadines use EC dollars, although the U.S. dollar is widely accepted. Credit cards are accepted at hotels, rental car agencies, and some restaurants and bars. There is a bank with an ATM in Charlestown Bay.

In restaurants, a tip of 10-15% is generally acceptable, if it has not been added already.

Entry Requirements:
No Visa is required for EC citizens and North American & South American citizens. No vaccinations are required. All visitors must have a valid passport and return tickets.

Getting There & Around:
Getting to Canouan isn't particularly easy. No matter where you are coming from, you need to get to one of the following locations: Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, Grenada. From there, you will connect to the island via your own charter flight, or contact the resorts on Canouan to schedule one for you. If you plan to arrive in St Vincent or any of the Grenadine Islands, check with SVG Air which offers scheduled inter-island flights. There is also a fast-ferry service that runs between the islands. It takes about 2 hours from St Vincent to Canouan Island. See the services section of this guide for more information.

The other way to get to Canouan is by boat. Anchorage and buoys are available in Grand Bay close to the Tamarind Beach Hotel.

Once on the island, the hotels provide shuttle service to the resorts. There is no taxi service on the island. There are car rentals available, however, you must have a valid drivers license from your place of residence and pay a fee of 50 EC$. The Canouan Resort also has golf carts available for their guests.

Canouan's weather is pretty simple to sum up - hot and humid with little variance throughout the year. December-May tend to be slightly cooler with much less rainfall.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Canouan Island.

The table below shows the average high and low temperatures, and rainfall.

Month Avg High Avg Low Avg Rainfall
January 84 76 5.1 inches
February 84 75 3.8 inches
March 85 76 4.1 inches
April 86 77 4.3 inches
May 87 78 5.9 inches
June 87 78 9.2 inches
July 87 78 12.0 inches
August 88 78 11.1 inches
September 88 78 10.6 inches
October 88 78 12.2 inches
November 87 78 10.7 inches
December 86 76 7.3 inches

Tips & Additional Information:
  • On Canouan Island, you drive on the left side of the road.
  • Canouan is generally free of malaria, dengue fever, and other diseases.
  • For all emergencies, dial 999.
  • Watch out for Manchineel Trees which have a greyish bark, shiny green leaves and spikes of small greenish flowers. Its fruits, which are similar in appearance to an apple, are green or greenish-yellow when ripe. Touching the tree can cause blistering as can standing under the tree during rain. Ingesting the fruit can be fatal.
  • Camouflage clothing is illegal in the country for civilians. Don't bring it.

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