On-Site in The Grenadines: Getting Happy on Happy Island
If you’ve been to Union Island, there’s nearly a 100% chance that you hopped a dinghy out to Happy Island. A visit to Union Island simply wouldn’t be complete without it… However, if you’ve never been to Union Island, Happy Island may be the most uncommon beach bar you’ll ever visit!
There is nothing new under the sun.
This quote poses a unique quandary to those of us who strive to seek out uncommon travel opportunities throughout the Caribbean. And not only because of that perfect reference to the vibrant West Indian fireball that casts its powerful glow over the region.
You see, as my brother Steve and I travel around the islands seeking out our favorite things to deem “uncommon” and therefore worthy of inclusion in this blog or our Facebook Page, there are always some who dispute our findings with pithy remarks like “been there, done that” and “that’s very common for this destination” or, worst of all, with silence. But to those who would digitally pee on our parade, I say to you: you’re missing the point.
When Steve and I started this crazy ride, it wasn’t to “discover” never before seen Caribbean wonders a la Christopher Columbus. No. How could we? Other than in parts of the inky depths within the Cayman Trench, where some of the world’s deepest deep-sea vents are found, everyone has been everywhere in the Antilles! We don’t presume that we’ll boldly go where no one has gone before. Our mission is simply to seek out the myriad unique elements of every island that offer distinctive experiences and bring them to you, our well-travelled readers.
One thing to keep in mind is that something that may not be off-the-beaten path on one island, might seem like the most uncommon and amazing thing to someone who’s never actually been to that particular island. (One of our favorite things about the Caribbean is the diversity of experiences to be found throughout the region.)
I can think of a ton of these examples, but for now, let’s just talk about one: Happy Island just off the coast of Union Island in the Grenadines.
Happy Island is a man-made island in the middle of Clifton harbor with no other purpose than to serve as an oasis for rum lovers with a proclivity to limin’. The brain-child of one man: Janti. About 10 years ago, he was volunteering removing conch (or lambi as their known in the Grenadines) shells from the beaches of Union Island. But do you know how much conch the people of the Grenadines eat? A LOT!
So, he began piling the empty shells up on the reef in Clifton harbor and before he knew it, visitors began using the conch pile as a make-shift bar. He was obviously on to something! A few years, an awful lot of conch shells, some cement and a tremendous amount of work done almost solely by himself and you’ve got a Grenadines institution.
The island is completely self-sufficient when it comes to energy—it’s all created using solar panels and by harnessing the wind. They often have barbecues going on Friday nights. And you’re welcome most hours of the day since Janti and his wife actually live in the back of the bar! During our sailing adventure through the Grenadines aboard Sail Oasis’ boat Trust Me, we visited for a late morning drink on a Saturday (hey, we were thirsty!) and they were more than obliging to serve us up some cocktails.
By any definition, this beach bar turned free-standing island would be considered uncommon.
Just don’t expect to plant your flag and claim it in the name of your country of choice. This is already one popular island! A quick search on Google returns pages and pages of videos, photos and stories of people tying up at Happy Island for a libation of two.
Even Anthony Boudain of Travel Channel fame paid the island a visit (watch the brief video)… Only to complain about the rum punches. For a guy with a mouth, he wasn’t very outgoing when it came to requesting the drink of his choice. All it took was a simple, polite appeal for more rum in my rum punch for me to be knocking back properly fueled, nutmeg covered delights on an tiny, man-made island dedicated to good times.
As I said, if you’re in the area, you simply must stop by. If you happen to have followed my advice earlier on how to easily get to the Grenadines inexpensively and aren’t already anchored in Clifton harbor, you can simply take a water taxi out to Happy Island.
Just keep this other quote by Ambrose Bierce in mind:
There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know.