Bequia: Why haven't you heard of it?

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A hidden paradise in the Caribbean

The Grenadines are prized among yachties, but even the sailing challenged can take a $6 ferry from the "mainland" of St. Vincent, where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, to Bequia (BECK-wee). This squiggle of an isle has a charming port, a thriving artist's culture, and these don't-miss highlights.

Untouched beaches

As befitting a place you haven't heard of, the seashore is virtually pristine. Hail a water taxi to Princess Margaret Beach (she swam there in 1958, and it seems like few people have since) or go overland (dollar mini-trucks with bench seats) to laid-back Lower Bay Beach. There, when you're tired of playing in the calm turquoise water, check out the tropical watercolors and silk paintings at Claude Victorine's studio at the end of the beachside road.

Hamilton fort

On the hill above the pastel clothing boutiques, grocery stores, and cafés of Port Elizabeth, a few cannons stand as a reminder of the French, who fortified the site in the 18th century, and the English, who later held it. The battery's mostly gone, but the view of sailboats anchored in Admiralty Bay is still worth fighting over.

Oldhegg turtle sanctuary

As a boy, Orton "Brother" King watched his grandfather hunt sea turtles off Bequia. After years as a diving fisherman himself, he realized he had to do something to help the dwindling species. Follow the road past Industry Bay to visit the shelter where King has rescued more than 680 baby hawksbills since 1995.

Model sailboats

At the Boat House, above Friendship Bay, Kingsley "Prop" King carves gum boats (named after the wood of which they're made) of up to three feet long. Most Sundays, owners of the larger gum boats race near Paget Farm, the fishing community on the south coast.

The Thursday night "jump-up"

Every week, there's a barbecue and free steel-pan music at the harborside Frangipani Hotel, a noted watering hole. You're guaranteed to see everyone you've met on Bequia.

The old fort

One of the island's oldest buildings is a fortified-stone French plantation house from the 1700s, now a six-room country inn. It's a walk to a beach, but there's a pool and a stirring panorama of the nearby islands. $95 to $140 for a double, 784/458-3440,

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