Beach Bars of Bequia

For a good time on this Caribbean island, consider my research into the local mixology scene—including a bar that’s so basic, you bring your own rum.
Welcome to Bequia
Whether you’re seeking a lively spot for drinks and music or a tranquil retreat for seaside relaxation, Bequia’s beach bar scene has something for everyone. David H. Lyman

There are more than a dozen reasons to drop the hook off Bequia in the Windward Islands. Surrounded by hills and a welcoming community ashore, the island is a safe, relaxing place to linger for a few weeks. More than a dozen bars and restaurants line the shore. If you count those on the hillside, the knock-up beach stands and the local dives, the count could reach two dozen.

My most recent visit to Bequia was to help a fellow Mainer, Richard Thomas, sail his 44-foot Pierre Munier-designed cutter Strider north to Antigua so he could crew in the annual Classic Yacht Regatta. Our plan was to island-hop up the chain, exploring dozens of anchorages as we went. We had three weeks.

The 44-foot Pierre Munier-designed cutter Strider at anchor in Bequia David H. Lyman

But before we could get underway, there were boat projects to do, provisions to buy, and water and fuel to take on, to say nothing of our research into the bar scene along the beach. Richard had already been on Bequia for a month and was deep into that research. I would now get to tag along.

We started with lunch at Da Reef, an open restaurant on the beach at the southern end of Lower Bay. I’d arranged to meet two old friends from Maine, John and Chrissy, who had been wintering here for 20 years. They’d built a house on the hill overlooking the bay and become residents of Bequia. Chrissy, who is the chair of the Committee for Democrats Abroad in the Caribbean, introduced me to tables full of women expats of mixed nationalities, all deep in political conversation. John writes, acts and, with Chrissy, produces an annual Bequia Theater Festival at the Da Reef. 

From Da Reef, it’s a mile walk along the beach back into town. Along the way are a dozen bars, restaurants, hotels and shops. Keegan’s Beachside Restaurant & Bar is at the opposite end of the beach from Da Reef. 

It’s a short climb up over a hill to Princess Margaret Beach—one of the great Caribbean beaches. In the middle is the Bamboo Beach Bar & Grill, followed by Jack’s Beach Bar at the far end.

Bamboo Beach Bar & Grill
The Bamboo Beach Bar & Grill on Princess Margaret Beach David H. Lyman

A nifty promenade leads around a cliff at the water’s edge to Bequia Plantation Hotel, a sprawling complex that is a throwback to colonial times. It had been forgotten 15 years ago when we were living on our Bowman 57 Searcher and anchored in Bequia, boat-schooling our two kids. Today, the Great House, with its shaded veranda, has been restored to its original grandeur. The lawns are immaculate, the trees are pruned, and the cottages and outbuildings are all painted white. There’s a meandering swimming pool, and drinks are on the porch by the beach.

A few steps away is The Fig Tree, a restaurant with a bar in an outdoor setting (almost everything down here is outdoors). 

One night, Richard and I dinghied ashore and tied up to the dock at Mac’s Pizza & Kitchen on the beach walkway. It has a flagstone patio shaded by umbrellas where rum and a fair meal can be had. We stayed for three hours. A quartet was playing, and the place was crowded. Apparently, the couple singing had come together a few years earlier, when she was on a circumnavigation. Her husband fell ill and died. She hired a skipper to continue the adventure. That skipper was also a musician. Now, they sing and sail.

The Whaleboner Bar is owned and operated by Orton “Brother” King, a local Bequian who has dedicated his life to the conservation of sea turtles. The bar itself is made from the jawbones of a whale, hence its unique name. David H. Lyman

Continuing along the promenade is Whaleboner Restaurant and Bar, Bequia’s oldest family-run restaurant, where you sit on whalebone stools. Next door is The Frangipani, which serves local rum infused with cannabis.

On the main drag in town is Maria’s Cafe, whose second-floor bar and dining room offer a breeze and Wi-Fi for the price of an iced tea. Nearby, across from the dinghy dock, is Bougainvillea, a less-than-casual pub for locals and those in search of cheap rum.

Maria's Cafe
Beyond just a place to eat and imbibe, Maria’s Café serves as a gathering spot for the local community and a meeting place for travelers to exchange stories and recommendations. David H. Lyman

Floating in the middle of the anchorage is Bar One, the creation of Kerry Ollivierre, whose family goes back 200 years in Bequia’s history of whaling and boatbuilding. Tie up the dinghy and sit yourself in a swing around a central bar. Sometimes there’s music and a beautiful sunset.

Moored in Admiralty Bay, Bar One isn’t your typical beach bar. In fact, it’s the one and only floating bar in the Grenadines. David H. Lyman

Bamboo is an informal beach bar that has no floor, no roof, no electricity and, in fact, no rum; you bring your own. It does have cold beer, and maybe ice, served at well-used and mended tables with a few dozen chairs of mixed lineage. It’s like a lemonade stand the neighborhood kids set up, only with great conversation. I ended up hearing the life story of an Aussie filmmaker who met a Scottish marine engineer at Bar One years ago. “I snuck aboard his boat one night, and we have been traveling the world together ever since,” she told me.

As I listened to her story, I realized that I was making diagrams in the sand with my toes. This, I thought, is what you are supposed to do at a Caribbean beach bar while listening to stories.

There’s also The Cocktail Lab, a bar known for its imaginative concoctions of spirits and fruit mixtures. It’s a place filled with expats in flowery dresses and Hawaiian shirts—definitely upscale locals. I ordered a simple rum in a tall glass with ice and tonic. No lime. The waiter’s shock told me I’d made an unforgivable error in local protocol. Still, I got to chat with a German expat in her 70s who fell in love with a local, moved here, opened an architect’s office, and wound up designing and building many of the larger villas and vacation homes on the island.

Island vibes await at the Bamboo Beach Bar & Grill on Princess Margaret Beach David H. Lyman

Nearby is Coco’s Place for a fine dinner. The lobster took more than an hour because someone had to run across town to buy one. Just across the alley is the Sailor’s Beach Cafe. It has an open mic night, and we got to listen to some fine local voices and instrumentalists.

Last but not least, we sampled the Open Deck Bar & Restaurant, a well-put-together operation by Daffodil, a Bequian woman who has been growing her enterprise for more than 20 years. When we were here 15 years ago, she and her son ran the only fuel and water ferry service in the bay. She still does, but has added laundry, rental apartments, and the bar and restaurant. 

All the places on Bequia have their charms, but to me, the most authentic beach bar is The Bamboo on Princess Margaret Beach. This is the kind of place I dream of as I suffer through gales and angry seas on my way to these tropical islands.