GRENADA - This island is a feast for the senses — all the senses — but one could easily argue that the sense of smell might be the most pleasurable here, even though the natural beauty of this southernmost Windward Island will take your breath away.
Drifting on gentle tropical breezes are the distinctive scents of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and vanilla, creating the island’s appropriate designation as “The Isle of Spice.” There are, in fact, more spices here per square kilometre than any other place on earth. Grenada supplies over 30 per cent of the world’s nutmeg, while contributing significantly to the export of cloves, cinnamon, mace, cocoa, ginger and vanilla.
The sweet aroma of these spices is especially pungent during market day in St. George’s, Grenada’s colourful capital. Throngs of locals and tourists flock to the marketplace on Saturdays to socialize, shop for produce and handicrafts and sample offerings of island foods laced with the various spices. It’s also a sheer pleasure to wander the streets and alleyways to admire the colonial architecture with its British and French influence, as well as marvel at the famous Carenage, the horseshoe-shaped waterfront promenade winding around the inner harbour.
Left: Grenada offers tourists some of the most pristine beaches in the world and they are rarely crowded.
The buildings on the Carenage boast a pink cast, largely attributed to their construction using pink fish scale tiles. In the glow of the sunset, these structures dazzle when bathed in the warmth of the sun’s evening rays.
Many yachts and cruise ships lay anchor here, drawn to the island because of its beauty and vast array of vacation amenities. Grenada has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, replete with bays and coves that shelter incredible marine life beneath its azure-coloured waters, and rainforests and parks that cover virtually one-sixth of the island’s land mass.
Within these tranquil sanctuaries are a plethora of wildlife and plant life, gorgeous waterfalls and clear, limpid pools that present an ideal location for a brief respite from the everyday rigors of urban life. Perhaps the best-known falls are Annendale, which is easily accessible, and Concord, composed of three very picturesque waterfalls ideally suited for swimming or simply for admiring.
Travelling the length and breadth of the island is a simple matter since it only measures 33-kilometres long by 20-kilometres wide. The roads are very good, including one major highway that circles the whole of Grenada.
Points of interest are Caribs’ Leap, north of the town of Sauteurs, where in 1651 Carib Indians jumped to their death rather than surrender to the French troops. There are three fortresses located on the island; Fort Frederick, Fort Matthew and Fort George, where Maurice Bishop and part of his cabinet were executed by a faction of his own People’s Revolutionary Government. The revolution eventually prompted intervention by the United States, and an invasion in 1983 by U.S. forces displaced Bishop and restored the former democratic government.
The Grenada National Museum in St. George’s details the coup and also offers a fine collection of objects and artifacts of the island’s history and culture.
From there, a tour of the River Antoine Rum Distillery, which has changed little since the 1800s, affords a look at the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean with a rum so strong it cannot be brought back to the U.S. or Canada. A milder version of around 75 proof is available, however.
Another historical remnant of Grenada’s past is the Dougaldston Spice Estate, where most of the spices are grown and processed for distribution throughout the island. The largest nutmeg processing plants are at Gouyave and Grenville, and tours are welcomed here. Belmont Estate in St. Patrick Parish possesses a wealth of cultural and historic reminders as well. This 300-year-old plantation produces coffee, cotton, sugarcane, cocoa, nutmeg and bananas.
Left: Concord Falls. Right: The urban art on Grenada takes some interesting forms.
The main crops of nutmeg and cocoa are still processed the traditional way, resulting in world-class quality beans. The estate also gives visitors the opportunity to experience the excitement and appeal of traditional Grenadian country living through tours and plantation dining. You can tease your palate with “cocoa tea” and get a clearer understanding of why cocoa is called the “food of the Gods.”
As you experience Grenada, you can’t help but be impressed by the beaches. Of particular note is Grand Anse beach, which sweeps around the bay south of St. George’s. This stretch of fine white sand draws sun worshippers as well as watersports enthusiasts. Grenadians are renowned for their boating skills, and each year in April, the local boat races on Grand Anse signal party time on the island. There are plenty of other water activities, such as snorkelling and scuba diving or fishing.
Accommodation choices in Grenada run the gamut — from small guesthouses to lavish resorts to luxurious villas. Your selections are only limited by your imagination — and taste!
One notable property is the Spice Island Beach Resort, which features a contemporary Caribbean theme. It was virtually destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but a $12 million (U.S.) renovation by Sir Oliver Royston Hopkin turned it into one of the most luxurious boutique hotels in all the Caribbean.
Accommodation consists of 64 exquisitely designed suites, including two new one-bedroom suites directly on Grand Anse beach.
All 34 beachfront units are new construction while extensive changes and upgrades were made to the private Pool Suites, Oleander Suites and Gardenview Suites. Amenities include Janissa’s Spa and Fitness Center, the Nutmeg Pod activity centre for young guests, and two renowned restaurants that feature culinary creations made with local produce and spices. The resort is all-inclusive and the only AAA 4-Diamond resort in Grenada.It blends all the flavours of the island into one spicy vacation.