Grenadines: What to Know Before You Go

A plush Caribbean resort provided something of a culture shock for Mary Roach, who says, "I was brought up on Lonely Planet guidebooks, I still keep my backpack ready, and I have always traveled with the idea of finding my own way."

In other words, she had never been to a resort. But, she notes, "it was strange how easy it was to give in to being pampered."

Roach, who has been writing about travel and health since the mid-1980s from her home in San Francisco, had only been to the Caribbean twice before, but Canouan reinforced her previous take on the area: "It's a beautiful island in a beautiful part of the world. In fact," she says, "that was the biggest challenge in writing the story. How do you find something interesting to say when everything is nice, wonderful, beautiful?"

A native of Maine, photographer Peter Barrett says that "even as a kid I had a toy camera." Later, after sifting through and discarding academic career options, he turned to advertising photography full time. He moved to Miami about ten years ago and soon acquired several major clients, from resorts and cruise lines to beer companies.

Barrett says the ISLANDS assignment to Canouan not only offered a chance to make his southernmost journey into the familiar waters of the Caribbean but also to work on a smaller scale, at a less hectic pace, and in a more creative way than his assignments normally allow. He relied on that creativity when he found the resort nearly empty during his shoot: Needing a model for a series of shots, he says he "borrowed" one from a generous Venezuelan film crew visiting the island.

Room Key Lodgings in The Grenadines range from small inns and guest houses to luxury resorts, including three on the island (all featured on the Canouan Web site). Prices start at about $100 for a double, depending on the package. Roach stayed at the top-flight Carenage Beach and Golf Club (tel. 011-784-458-8000), where luxury suites start at $440 a night - and where a "villa suite" costs about $1,500 nightly.

Cash Flow U.S. dollars are widely accepted, but when Roach asked a hotel manager about an ATM, the man replied: "What's an ATM?"

Beach TimeThe beach at the resort is secluded, deserted, and gorgeous, but it's not the only idyllic strand around. Barrett, a veteran Caribbean traveler, also raves about Mahault, on the back side of the island. ("It's an amazing, undisturbed, and unspoiled beach," he says.)

Dive In Looking for warm water? Then plan to go between May and December. But even in winter a light wet suit is all you'll need. The Tobago Cays are legendary both for fine snorkeling and diving (Horseshoe Reef has a colorful drop-off to 120 feet), but for detailed information about diving throughout The Grenadines chain, check out the website: www.scubasvg.com

Setting Sail The Grenadines, some of the world's most beautiful cruising grounds, were once a relatively remote destination for chartered yachts, but no more. Today both skippered and bareboat charters are available on three islands in The Grenadines - St. Vincent, Bequia, and Union - which means you'll have to look harder these days to find a secluded mooring in season. (But the search is definitely worth it.)

On the RoadExpect to spend about $60 a day for a compact rental car - assuming you really need one. If so, you will also need a local driver's license (EC$40); and remember: Driving is on the left. Taxis (unmetered but with fares set by the government) are available on a per-hour, per-trip, or per-day basis. To stop one of the island's brightly colored mini-buses, stand beside the road and wave, or casually point a finger to the ground. (But inquire about the bus's route to your destination before getting in, because some may take you out of your way.)

What's to Eat Island food runs toward spicy fried chicken and beef with rice, and papaya. Carenage specializes in what could be called Italian gourmet, with wood-oven pizza a favorite.

Read It and Leap Caribbean Compass is a monthly tabloid that focuses on the southern Caribbean, covering everything from sailing regattas to environmental issues. A favorite of sailors, the paper recently published its 50th issue. For both current material and a useful archive of past articles, go to the website at www.begos.com

Travel Tips For local information, www.grenadines.net is a gateway to web sites covering each of the islands and including accommodations info. And for up-close-and-personal takes on life in the Grenadines, check out the Bulletin Board System. There islanders in the tourist industry come on-line to answer questions ("Are there any jellyfish in The Grenadines?" was posed recently) and discuss topics ranging from island-hopping trips aboard the local mail boat to the highly publicized Fletcher murder trial, which took place on St. Vincent several years ago.