Montserrat is welcoming tourists back to enjoy the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’

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  • Published on March 28, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Places

As it unearths itself from volcano eruptions, the Caribbean island of Montserrat provides black-sand beaches and untouched natural landscapes.

Almost 25 years after the tiny island of Montserrat suffered devastation from the eruptions of the Soufrière Hills Volcano, it is returning to normal.

The island’s sand-mining and geothermal energy are impacting the economy, resulting in an increase in the population, along with the return of tourism. The eastern Caribbean island is seeing more and more visitors trickle in to enjoy its soaring peaks, rainforest-covered hillsides and black-sand beaches.

Montserrat is known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean due to its lush lands, which strikingly resemble the coast of Ireland. The island has a documented history with the country that is almost 4,000 miles away. According to Travel and Leisure, many of Montserrat’s residents have Irish ancestry. The island is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, settled on by Irish Catholics in 1632. The island’s ample supply of sugar cane was strongly associated with the growth of slavery and indentured servitude. The decline of the sugar industry also led to the decline of enslaved laborers.

Montserrat’s complex origins with its African heritage are also evident through the island’s annual celebrations and festivals. According to Travel and Leisure, it is also the “only country outside of Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday.” Unlike the most common understanding of the holiday, Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration honoring an attempted rebellion by enslaved Africans against European colonizers in 1768.

As the small island is unearthing itself from the rubble of its native volcanos, it welcomes people to experience its natural, untouched beauty. U.S. visitors can usually access the island through a 20-minute flight from Antigua and Barbuda, as there are no direct flights to the island from the states. Gated resorts and cruise ship docks are absent from the landscape of Montserrat, but tourists are encouraged to stay at its intimate bed-and-breakfasts, boutique hotels, and oceanfront villas.

Travel and Leisure listed the 16-room Tropical Mansion Suites, the garden-covered Olveston House and the secluded, self-sufficient Gingerbread Hill as top accommodations. The island also offers several villa options, providing concierge services, daily cleaning, and in-house cooks.

While you are there, take in the captivating nature of the island. Nine hiking trails in the island’s northern part, mainly in Centre Hills, provide a way to spot one of the 34 species of birds that inhabit the island. The majestic land is also home to several other endangered animals, such as a species of frog called a “mountain chicken” and the rare galliwasp, a half-snake, half-lizard creature.

Along the coastline are several restaurants that serve the island’s national dish, goat water. This traditional savory stew consists of a thick broth base, pieces of goat meat, vegetables and is served with a freshly baked bread roll. Montserrat also has several native tropical fruits, including soursop, mango, blackberry, guava, tamarind, gooseberry and the West Indian cherry.

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