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Like many isles in the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles region, Montserrat is a volcanic island. It’s a relatively untouched tourist destination, promising the coveted solitude of an unplugged vacation.
Despite an exclusion zone that cordons off the island’s southern half, there are many reasons to visit Montserrat precisely because of its seismic activity — and not just to add drama to a vacation. Eruptions have revitalized coral reef diving spots, turned coastlines into otherworldly black-sand beaches and shaped fertile, mountainous terrain.Here are six top picks for things to do in Montserrat, for clients ranging from adventurous to laid-back.
Celebrate St. Patrick’s DayMontserrat’s moniker, “Emerald Isle,” isn’t just because of its endlessly green panoramas — this Caribbean island is the only country outside Ireland that designates St. Patrick’s Day as a public holiday, which means weeklong festivities if clients are fortunate enough to visit in March.
The Irish were among Montserrat’s earliest settlers, and the island’s version of St. Patrick’s Day commemorates slave history, specifically a foiled uprising of African slaves against Irish masters in 1768. Today, Irish-Caribbean culture is a dominant presence and can be seen in Montserrat’s masquerade parades; traditional music; Gaelic-themed arts and crafts; and taps overflowing with Guinness.
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A post shared by RepCouture Label™️ (@repcoutureinc) on Mar 17, 2019 at 5:38am PDT
Check Out the Black-Sand BeachesDue to the Soufriere Hills eruptions, most of the island’s beaches are powdered by black sand — a novelty for many western tourists. This includes Woodlands Bay Beach, a secluded black-sand beach on Montserrat’s northwest coast that is great for turtle-watching and snorkeling. The island’s most popular beach for tourists, Little Bay Beach, is framed by a pair of rugged cliffs that make the cove a relaxing and photogenic beachside spot. While there, clients can indulge in fresh seafood barbecue at Pont’s Beach View, one of many restaurants dotting the coast of Little Bay. Every Sunday, this eatery serves up its version of Caribbean fried snapper, a popular dish throughout the region.
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A post shared by Xanadu Montserrat (@xanadu_montserrat) on Feb 9, 2019 at 12:14pm PST
Dive in the Coral ReefsClients can dive along Montserrat’s protected west coast or take an excursion to Little Redonda Island — an uninhabited island just 10 miles away — to see the area’s aquatic biodiversity up-close: massive barrel sponges, reef fish, moray eels, octopuses, lobsters, stingrays and sea turtles, to name a few.
Go BirdwatchingBirdwatching is an excellent way to enjoy Montserrat’s avian biodiversity as well as stunning scenery. As the island’s landscape is covered in dense greenery, birdwatching can be challenging without an experienced guide.
Carr’s Bay, near Little Bay, is an ideal spot to see moorhens, herons and frigate birds. The route to Garibaldi Hill gives birders a view of various avian species, and upon reaching the top, clients can take in the Belham River valley to the north and the ruins of Plymouth to the south.
Hike the Diverse LandscapeHiking in the Caribbean is a great way for clients to familiarize themselves with the landscapes and fascinating biodiversity of the region. Hiking in Montserrat is no exception.
The 1.3-mile Oriole Walkway Trail is lined with rubber trees and banana plantations in a rainforest, while the 1.2-mile Blackwood Allen Trail rewards hikers with sweeping views of abundant fruit trees and green mountains. For an even more picturesque hike, clients should try the 1.3-mile Rendezvous Nature Trail for vistas of the Caribbean Sea and access to Rendezvous Beach, the only white-sand beach on the island.
Sightsee at the Soufriere Hills VolcanoAlthough the southern part of the island is restricted by a volcano exclusion zone, travelers can venture to Jack Boy Hill or Montserrat Volcano Observatory to observe Soufriere Hills’s breathtaking smoky peak and lava flow remnants.
Clients can also get a glimpse of the buried city of Plymouth, the island’s former capital. Dubbed the “Pompeii of the Caribbean,” Plymouth was partially subsumed by a volcanic eruption in 1995, prompting the city’s residents to flee to Montserrat’s north end or leave the island altogether. The volcano’s last eruption was in 2010, and some tour groups — led by highly trained guides — lead intrepid travelers into the buried city.