It is impossible not to be in a good mood the moment you set foot on the West Indies island of Grenada. The capital, St. George’s, is located on the main island and is surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped harbor and a hillside formed by an old volcanic crater.
When I stepped off the plane at St George’s Maurice Bishop International Airport, which has only a single passenger terminal, I was convinced I could already smell the scent of the many spices (i.e. nutmeg and cloves) that famously grow on the island and hear the sounds of the buleadors, steel drums, and maracas, the most popular musical instruments of Grenada.
On my second visit, the customs officer called me by my first name and welcomed me back like a long-lost friend. In fact, strangers are greeted with a big smile everywhere. Joie de vivre seems to be the predominant emotion of the locals, an attitude that made me love the island from the word “go.”
Spices, rum, and waterfalls are highlights that make Grenada different from other Caribbean islands and will make you fall in love too. You’ll also find interesting food, diving, sailing, and every kind of watersport as well as just rubbing shoulders with the locals at the pristine beaches, or at the colorful Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market or the Sauteurs Fish Market.
Grenada and her sister islands Carriacou and Petite Martinique form part of the Grenadines and are located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago and northeast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. Grenada does not feature glitzy resorts like other Caribbean islands but makes up in charm because of the colors of the water, the ever-present aromas of nutmeg and vanilla, the taste of rum, and the friendly people.
It is best reached by plane, but there are also ferries connecting the islands, and it’s best to go around by rented car. St George’s is a cruise ship port, but not a very big one, which means you will not have to cope with thousands of cruise ship passengers disembarking all at the same time.
The best time of year to visit is between mid-December and mid-April, when you can expect the least rainfall. Of course, you come to the tropics, so expect high temperatures year-round but also a fresh breeze from the ocean.
A good breakfast is always a great way to start the day, so you’ll love the “doubles.” Although originally from Trinidad, “doubles” are a traditional breakfast staple in Grand Anse, best enjoyed freshly made and served from the back of a van. Doubles will keep you full until lunchtime and ready to face the many other activities that await you in Grenada. They are a sweet and spicy chickpea curry, served in a double helping of soft bara bread.
2. Grand Etang National Park
After your hearty breakfast, you are ready for your adventures in the fabulous Grand Etang National Park, 1,900 feet high up in the mountains of St. Andrews in the interior of the island. The park comprises several ecosystems, including rain forests, many hiking trails of varying difficulties, the spectacular Seven Sisters Waterfalls, and a nearly circular lake.
The water of the seven waterfalls is clear enough to drink, a welcome refreshment on a hot day and hike. You’ll love the latest thrill of the park: Grenada High Wire. A zip line that leads you through the rain forest on a high wire canopy obstacle course. You might even encounter the occasional mona monkey. Professionally trained guides ensure your safety.
3. House Of Chocolate
Make your way to Young Street in St. George’s and fall in love with the cutest mini-museum, bakery, and chocolate shop you can imagine. It has only been around for a few years but is a great hit with locals and tourists alike. House of Chocolate tells you all about the history of chocolate on the island of Grenada. It is, after all, the Caribbean spice island.
Everything at The House of Chocolate — cakes, ice cream, and drinks — is lovingly hand crafted into the products of this bakery, and the museum part documents the history of chocolate on the island. The scent alone will make your mouth water, and you can get all the treats you crave in the shop.
This, however, is not the only chocolate-related business on the island. There is also the much bigger Chocolate Company, a cooperative of cocoa farmers. It was founded in 1999 by three cocoa growers who wished to grow entirely organic cocoa beans and vanilla beans and to protect the farmers, as opposed to the actual makers of the iconic Grenada dark chocolate. Here you have the chance to see both ends of the production and to learn all about chocolate in Grenada.
4. Underwater Sculpture Park
One of Grenada’s most mesmerizing experiences is a visit to the Underwater Sculpture Park. Located off the west coast of Grenada, just off Moliniere point, the collection of 75 underwater sculptures created by artist Jason de Caires Taylor is something you will never forget. It opened in 2006, and the sculptures are made from steel and cement but appear much older.
Although they are primarily works of art, they were submerged into the sea to repair damages to the reefs that had already occurred and to prevent further damage. The statues are held in place by bolts and can be viewed either by snorkeling, scuba diving, or even from glass-bottom boats as some are quite close to the surface.
The subjects of the sculptures are manyfold. The most touching is probably the Vicissitudes, a group of 26 children standing in a circle.
5. River Antoine Rum Distillery
The River Antoine Rum Distillery is located in the northeast of the island, near Lake Antoine, and has been producing the 140-proof (70% ABV) rum in the same traditional way for 250 years. That means that the sugar cane is crushed in heavy metal wheels, heated in wood-burning ovens, and moved and stirred by hand until the golden, strong-smelling end product is achieved — no shortcuts and not much modernization.
Tradition is a big thing in Grenada, and their potent rum is no exception. Of course, the distillery has a tasting room with just a barrel of rum, a folding table, and some paper cups, but you are sure to feel the effect after the first sip. This is some fiery tipple.
6. Sailing Into The Sunset
What can be more romantic than going on a boat trip and sailing away, admiring one of the best sunsets on the island of Grenada? One of the most spectacular, when the sky bursts into a sea of color, reflected in the water, is at Grand Anse Beach. This white beach stretches for 2 miles and not only affords the glorious sunsets, but also great views of the capital.
Getting on board a sailing yacht, lazing the day away with a glass of rum or champagne in hand, alternating with swimming and diving, and finishing the day off by sailing away into the sunset with a catamaran with one of several tours offered by footloose tours might make you want to stay on the water forever.
7. Hash House Harriers
One of the most original pastimes you can possibly indulge in is the unique sport of hashing. Every Saturday, the Hash House Harriers assemble, a group of locals, students, tourists, and whoever happens to be on the island. Someone stacks out a walking/running course around the island, usually 2 hours long and following heaps of shredded paper that mark the course, from start to finish.
This being the island of Grenada, the start and finishing lines are usually at a rum shack. This is also an environment-friendly way of marking the course because it’s only white paper that is used that disintegrates easily. Jokingly, the hashers call themselves “drinkers with a running problem” and the group grows steadily. Everybody is welcome, just arrive in time for the next hash wearing appropriate running gear and shoes. You will love this fun activity and above all, the atmosphere of easy friendship.
Remember that people on Grenada drive on the left side of the road, a remnant of the times when the British were on the island. Stay firmly on the correct side of the road and keep the speed down.