Why your next holiday destination should be Montserrat
Why your next holiday destination should be Montserrat
If you’re looking to get off the beaten track and closer to nature, then plan a trip to Montserrat, the Caribbean’s hidden gem
Montserrat is a picturesque British Overseas Territory located in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s often hailed as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean thanks to its verdant, rugged landscape. In this wonderfully enchanting tropical oasis, you’ll find rare wildlife, breathtaking scenery and a welcoming local community.
As soon as you step onto the island’s warm sands, you’ll feel the invigorating energy that runs through the natural terrain. From the pristine mountains to the glistening waters, Montserrat is bursting with opportunities for you to get close to the native wildlife and relax in an unspoilt natural sanctuary.
The locals are keen to help you embrace the spirit of the island. Whether you want to unwind with a therapeutic massage or enjoy a taste of the local cuisine, there are plenty of ways you can learn about the island’s culture and traditions from those living here.
If Montserrat’s landscape tells the story of its history, the Soufrière Hills stratovolcano has always been at the centre of the plot. After being dormant for 400 years, the volcano awoke again in 1995. The last eruption was in 2010, and activities since then have been low, which allows visitors the chance to enjoy a safe and unique volcanic tour experience.
Because of the eruptions, two thirds of the island are now uninhabitable, including the capital city, Plymouth – which has been dubbed “the buried city.” You can visit and experience this town frozen in time, but you’ll only be able to do so with a certified guide.
Indeed, there’s a wide range of off-the-grid guided tours and nature hikes you can choose from to help you explore safely. Of course, you’re also free to wander around and discover the many areas outside of the Exclusion Zone at your own pace.
Ready for your Caribbean adventure? Read on to discover the best ways to experience Montserrat’s precious wildlife…
A large portion of Montserrat’s wildlife lives in the Centre Hills, the island’s largest forest reserve which is home to a wide variety of its flora and fauna. It forms one of the island’s important Birding areas and it’s a habitat for species such as the critically endangered mountain chicken (which is a large frog), forest thrush and the Montserrat oriole, the island’s endemic and critically endangered national bird.
Eight out of Montserrat’s nine official hiking trails are found within the Centre Hills, allowing you to spot many of the island’s birds for yourself. Guided tours can be arranged with local operator Scriber’s Adventures, or the Montserrat National Trust.
A particular highlight is the popular Oriole Walkway Trail, which will provide you with several chances to observe the Oriole in its natural habitat. Your guide will also call the Orioles and you will hear their distinctive response as they draw close. Thanks to their vast knowledge of the Centre Hills, your Guides can answer any questions you may have as you make your way beneath the leafy canopies.
Montserrat is an important nesting site for marine turtles in the Eastern Caribbean, particularly the green, leatherback and hawksbill species. The island’s tropical waters, reefs and seagrass beds provide an ideal foraging ground for the young, and nesting adults who sometimes travel thousands of miles just to lay their eggs in the sandy beaches here.
Catching sight of this procession is an incredible experience, and if you want to take in the magic for yourself, you can book a session with an expert turtle watching guide, who will show you how to observe the nesting turtles closely without causing any disruption. The best time to visit is between May and December, when most adult turtles lay their eggs.
From the port of Little Bay, you can either take a short kayak or hike to the only white sand beach of Rendezvous. This pocket of tranquillity offers serene views of the surrounding hills, clifftops and the deep blue sea.
If you enjoy snorkelling in crystal clear waters, you’re in luck, because this stretch of sea is ripe for exploration. The local dive and snorkel operators Scuba Montserrat and Aqua Montserrat can help equip you with the necessary gear, and give you tips on where to find the most vibrant displays of coral and friendly marine life.
For your chance to see the animals that live above the water, take a tour to the nearby Bat Caves. As the name suggests, these impressive rock formations are home to a colony of Antillean fruit-eating bats, with the females and their young residing in one cave and the males living in the other.
It’s easy to reap nature’s restorative powers while in Montserrat, but to feel truly pampered, you could enjoy some of the wellness therapies on offer at one of the many local spas.
Tucked away in the tranquil northern village of Drummonds is Blyss Day Spa, where you can benefit from an invigorating seaweed wrap massage, along with professional beauty treatments such as manicures and pedicures.
Alternatively, you may like to opt for a relaxing face massage at the Oasis Spa in Runaway Ghaut. Other treatments include aromatherapy, Swedish hot stones, body scrubs and more. And, when you’re finished, you’ll be perfectly placed to visit the nearby Runaway Ghaut font, a naturally formed gully that continuously funnels spring water from the mountains above. Legend says that those who drink from it are destined to return to Montserrat one day.
Montserrat’s local cuisine is a unique blend of culinary traditions inspired by foods and flavours from all over the world. You’ll be spoiled for choice as you sample foods from the vibrant restaurants, bars and snackettes dotted around the island.
The Emerald Rose restaurant in the island’s northern town village of St John’s specializes in local cuisine and is a must-visit destination. The famous People’s Place in Forgathy Hill is well-known for selling Montserrat’s comforting national dish, Goat Water, which is a hearty mix of goat meat, onions and herbs and is usually served with rice or crispy bread.
For a refreshing beverage break, head to The Attic bar and restaurant in Olveston. Here, you’ll be tempted by a selection of thirst-quenching drinks made from flavoursome local fruit, including tamarind and gooseberry – and don’t forget to try their renowned zesty ginger beer!