A barrier reef runs along the Atlantic side of the island. The highest point on the island is Mount Royal. Two bays, Glossy and Friendship, separate the southern side of the Canouan Island.
Canouan lies approximately 25 miles south of St. Vincent which, from 1871 to 1969, was part of the British colony of the Windward Islands. Locals in need of supplies beyond basic staples routinely board cargo ships to make the two-to-three-hour passage to the main Island of Saint Vincent. A fast ferry service for the Grenadines commenced operations in June 2010 which reduces the journey to one hour.
Some time prior to 200 B.C. a cultivated tribe called the Arawaks reached the island using dug-out canoes. These new residents brought plants, animals, and basic farming and fishing skills with them. They lived in peace for 1,500 years until a tribe of fierce fighters called the Caribs invaded and killed the Arawak men and took off with their women.
More than 200 years after Columbus laid eyes on St. Vincent, the Europeans established a kind of permanent settlement. Its mountainous and heavily forested geography allowed the Caribs to defend against European settlement here longer than on almost any other island in the Caribbean.
After the Caribs were defeated on other islands they joined slaves who had escaped repression on Barbados by following the current and trade winds westward to St. Vincent, as well as those who had survived shipwrecks near St. Vincent and Bequia.
The mixed descendants of the island warriors and the freed Africans, who became known as the Black Caribs, had a common distrust and disgust for the Europeans, and proved to be a fearsome foe. The Caribs feared complete domination so they allowed the French to construct a settlement on the island in 1719. The French brought slaves to work their plantations. By 1748, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle officially declared St. Vincent and its surrounding islands to be a neutral island, controlled by neither Britain nor France. The two countries continued to contest control of the islands, however, until they were definitively ceded to the British in 1814.
In 1951 universal adult suffrage was introduced in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and in 1979, it became an independent state within the British Commonwealth with a democratic government based on the British system.
The average daytime temperatures range from 24 to 30 °C (75 to 86 °F). The driest season is from December to May. The coolest months are between November and February.
In the early 1990s the Canouan Resorts Development Ltd (CRD) company was formed and secured lease for areas of the island to build 2 hotels - the former Raffles Resort At this point the building arm of CRD Ltd. built roads throughout Canouan (previously only dirt tracks), installed electricity to the island and residents houses and provided desalinated water for the first time. Prior to that, fresh water was brought by boat from St. Vincent on a regular basis. Locals who are not employed by the resort, however, are forbidden admittance to the property nowadays as it is private property. However the beaches remain public property and locals are allowed to use the beaches and can access either through the resort or by boat. It was announced that the resort would revert from Raffles/Fairmont Resorts back to Carenage Bay Resort on May 20, 2010.
The two major resorts on Canouan, the former Raffles and the Tamarind Beach Hotel, provide a stark contrast to life on the rest of the island. Outside the two resorts, wild dogs roam freely, along with chickens, goats, turtles, lizards, and the occasional bat. Between 2004 and 2010, Raffles managed the Resort, which occupies the north ⅓ of the island. The Golf Course won the Robb Reports best of the best Golf Courses in the World 2005 and is consistently voted the top course in the Caribbean. The Golf Course at the resort was designed by Jim Fazio. An entirely new luxury resort is now under construction on Godhal Beach, scheduled to open fall 2013.
There are 2 schools on Canouan - the Government Primary school and the independent Pelican School which is an accredited Cambridge International School. There is also an official Canouan Pre-school located close to the primary school.
The runway at Canouan Airport has recently been lengthened to almost 6,000 feet to accommodate larger aircraft. It is now the jet port for the Grenadines.
Moorings yacht charter company have their Grenadines base in Canouan in Grand Bay.
Canouan was one of the locations of the Sports Illustrated 2009 Swimsuit Edition.
NBA player and political activist Adonal Foyle hails from Canouan, and former Prime Minister of St. Lucia Sir John Compton was born there.
Canouan Airport serves as the airport.