The soil on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent is so fertile, the locals say that if you plant a stone it would grow. The nutrient rich soil comes from the island's dominant feature -- a 4,048 foot volcano called La Soufriere.
Lush and mountainous, St. Vincent is the largest island in the eastern Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The chain of 32 islands and cays, located 100 miles west of Barbados, stretches from St. Vincent in the north to Petit St. Vincent in the south, just north of Grenada.
"When you mention the Caribbean, a certain picture goes into everyone's brain. When you come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it's exactly what you've imagined," said Glen Beache, Minister of Tourism for St. Vincent & the Grenadines. "It's the Caribbean as it was 40 years ago. The tallest building in St. Vincent is five stories high."
With no direct flights from the United States to St. Vincent, the island is not a mass tourism destination, helping to preserve its natural beauty and authentic Caribbean feel. Tourism is sure to grow, however, as the island plans to open a larger airport in 2012 that can accommodate larger planes and direct flights from the U.S.
At 132 square miles, approximately twice the size of Washington, D.C., St. Vincent can be explored in a day. The island's mountainous terrain and impossibly narrow and windy roads, however, make getting from point A to point B circuitous, and at times a bit frightening.
If you can stomach the harrowing byways, you'll be rewarded with dramatic tropical vistas from the high mountain roads. Traversing the more rugged leeward side of the island provides views of a rugged terrain dotted with small fishing villages nestled in tranquil coves with black sand beaches.
"You will not find clearer waters than on a black sand beach, absolutely amazing, " Beache says. "And the black sand beaches are said to have healing powers."
The abundant waterfalls are another natural attraction of the island. The Dark View Falls, a two-tiered waterfall tucked away in a bamboo forest, is the most visited waterfall due to its easy accessibility.
"It's a marvelous location. I've never met anyone that's visited Dark View Falls and didn't like it," said Erasto Maxwell Robertson, a native Vincentian and park ranger.
The Falls of Baliene, another popular waterfall on the north side of the island is equally stunning but only reachable by boat.
Volcano Well Worth the Four-Hour Hike
Getting to the top of the island's volcano, La Soufriere, is not easy either. The four-hour round-trip hike to the crater is one of the most challenging eco-adventures on the island.
The volcano is still active but hasn't erupted since April 13, 1979.