Caribbean Adventure Highlights from the Spice Island of Grenada

March 6, 2013 by

Caribbean, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Grenada is one of those places that defy reason. It boasts pristine beaches, endless outdoor adventure, and a vibrant population of warm, welcoming locals, yet the Caribbean island of Grenada (not to be confused with the Spanish city of Granada) barely registers on the radars of many seasoned Caribbean travelers. But their loss is your gain because this lush volcanic isle in the far southeastern Caribbean might just be one of the best off-the-beaten-track escapes you’ve never heard of, and with easy direct flights from the US to boot.

From St Georges to Grand Anse Beach

Grenada Grand Anse

To the beach!

The heart of Grenada is the capital of St Georges, arguably one of the most picturesque settlements in all the Caribbean islands. From a distance the brilliant-white buildings with scarlet-red rooftops pop against the verdant hillsides. The deeply terraced town is riddled with narrow streets, steep staircases and fronted by a bustling harbor packed with yachts, sailboats and reggae-colored water taxis.

Just a mile south of St Georges stretches the shimmering two-mile arc of Grand Anse Beach, where a string of hotels overlooks the calm, turquoise Caribbean. Stroll inland from Grand Anse to find Morne Rouge Roundabout, which marks the shopping area called “Wall Street” for its congregation of banks and ATMs. Keep an eye out for the cane juice man who sets up shop in the parking lot, doling out frosty cups of fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice from his trailer-hitched juicing contraption. Traveling between the beach and St Georges is quick and easy by cab, or just walk out to the road and keep an eye out and a hand up for the local mini-buses that roll by every few minutes—they’ll get you there just as easily, and for a fraction of the price when you go local-style.

Welcome to Spice Island

Nutmeg in Grenada

Nutmeg

Grenada’s nickname, The Spice Isle, is no joke. The sleepy, verdant island boasts steep South Pacific-like volcanic slopes where dense fields of cocoa, ginger and nutmeg—especially nutmeg—flourish. Colonial-era traders originally brought nutmeg here from Indonesia, but in the intervening centuries, the trees have taken firm root, making Grenada one of the world’s top producers. Taking a spice tour of the island invariably includes stops at local spice gardens or plantations, not to mention the nutmeg processing station in Gouyave (hometown of Grenadian Olympic gold medalist Kirani James).

Sculptures and shipwrecks below the waves

Exploring Granada underwater Sculpture Park

A diver examines one Grenada’s underwater sculptures

Beneath the placid Caribbean waters around Grenada, scuba divers and snorkelers can find a veritable treasure trove of underwater adventures. Local dive shop Dive Grenada helped create the Underwater Sculpture Park, one of the island’s top attractions, and one that was featured in a National Geographic list of the Top 25 Wonders of the World. The collection of submarine sculptures includes a Christ of the Deep statue identical to the one overlooking St Georges Harbour, a ring of children holding hands, a man riding a bicycle and many others nestled among the coral reefs in a shallow, protected bay.

More advanced scuba divers won’t want to miss the myriad shipwrecks around the island, especially the Bianca C. Known as the Titanic of the Caribbean, this cruise liner sank outside the harbor in 1961. Today scuba divers can descend to her deteriorating decks where the ship’s swimming pool still rests, quite full of water.

Hints of rum and chocolate

Fresh squeezed sugar cane juice, Grenada

Fresh squeezed sugar cane juice from a roadside vendor on Wall Street

Like any Caribbean island worth its salt (or sugar, as the case may be) Grenada has a long relationship with rum, and nowhere is that more apparent than at the River Antoine Rum Distillery. It’s the oldest working distillery in the Caribbean, a centuries-old complex where the cane is still crushed by a towering water wheel, and the stills and boiling pots are heated over open fires stoked with spent sugar cane husks.

Take a tour to see it in operation, and at the end sample the product. But be warned: This is no smooth, cask-aged sipping rum, but rather raw, uncut firewater, essentially island moonshine made mostly for local consumption. For a sweeter on-island concoction, stop at the Grenada Chocolate Company. The tiny co-op nestled into the rainforest operates sustainably, and uses local cocoa to create award winning-chocolates that rate alongside high-end European contenders.

Get lost in the Grand Etang National Park

Seven Sisters Waterfalls, Grenada

Seven Sisters Waterfalls

As one of the larger of the Lesser Antilles, Grenada has rolling interior mountains cloaked by a thick cover of rainforest. And nowhere can you find scenery more wild than on a hiking tour of the Grand Etang National Forest. The park comprises a robust network of hiking and trekking trails stretching so far that one could lose themselves for days exploring remote ridgelines and following cool mountain rivers through shaded valleys.

A popular day hike is St Margaret’s Trail. This steep, sometimes muddy, track winds through tall stands of bamboo and wild fruit trees with curious mona monkeys frolicking in the upper branches. The trail ends at the Seven Sisters Waterfalls where you can cool off in water cascading from the jungle.

Where to stay

Grand Anse is the hotel hub of the island, but don’t expect a Cancun-style hotel zone. There are no chain hotels or resorts here, but rather locally owned offerings, each with it’s own style and character. For example, the Flamboyant Hotel and Villas sits high on the hillside overlooking the beach offering good all-around accommodation, while the Blue Horizons Garden Resort has a more secluded, luxurious setting amidst tropical gardens, and yachtsmen looking to rub shoulders with kindred salty dogs in this sailing mecca can find the boating crowd holed up at the True Blue Bay Resort, just across the peninsula from Grande Anse.

Photos courtesy of Travis Marshall

 - Travis Marshall

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One Response to “Caribbean Adventure Highlights from the Spice Island of Grenada”

  1. Jim Says:

    The place looks amazing… Are there any direct flights to the island from Canada (Quebec)?

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