If your idea of the Caribbean involves casinos, luxury shops, gourmet restaurants and long sandy beaches, Montserrat will bore you silly.
With just barely more than 5,000 permanent residents and only one or two ATMs, Montserrat fits the dictionary definition of "quiet." There are no four-lane roads, no traffic lights, no neon signs and no international chain stores. The biggest regular social event—which draws everyone from teenage boys dripping with gold chains to demure grandmothers—is bingo.
Montserrat's slogan is "The Way the Caribbean Used to Be." And, for once, marketers seem to have gotten it exactly right.
What was indisputably the worst series of crises to hit Montserrat in its recorded history—the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, followed six years later by the first eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano, which demolished Montserrat's capital of Plymouth and sent two-thirds of the British territory's population into exile—may have had a hidden golden lining for this tiny island in the Lesser Antilles. Because of the disasters, Montserrat fell off many tourists' radar and had to focus on rebuilding its basic infrastructure.
As a result, it has avoided the rampant resort development and cruise-ship crowds that have overwhelmed some other Caribbean islands. The result, for visitors who make the effort to reach this somewhat isolated tropical outpost, is a uniquely serene and friendly place. The island is particularly popular with outdoorsy travelers, who can hike, mountain bike, snorkel, scuba dive and kayak in almost perfect solitude.
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