For only a few hours after a cruise ship docks, the Port of St. George’s is hectic. The various shop and restaurant staffs have been anxiously awaiting its arrival. Passengers disembark perhaps for their first visit to Grenada.
The duty-free ship’s terminal comes alive with transactions: local chocolates, other confectioneries, spices, postcards, and baskets are readily purchased by travelers anxious to get a memento of their brief time in port.
Some travelers go to nearby restaurants as experienced staff get into their hustle-and-bustle rhythm. Other travelers start exploring the surrounding area, slowly making their way up the rolling landscape that takes them above the main street and offers panoramic views of both the port and the surrounding area. Some pre-planners go on a short excursion to swim.
Soon, the last-call whistle blows. The ship has plotted its course and sails toward the horizon.
The town reverts to its normal activities. The terminal is a ghost town until the next ship arrives. Soon, its arrival is a local conversation point. Throughout all of this, what Grenada truly has to offer its visitors stays just out of reach, beyond what can be seen or experienced in St. George’s and the adjacent area.
Located near the Lesser Antilles, Grenada is very close to the coast of Venezuela. It is an often-ignored island whose history is beyond fascinating.
History Of Grenada
To become more familiar with its culture and people, you need to learn about its three distinct periods, with a strong focus on the country’s modern history.
The first period was long ago, in Pre-Colombian history, when the Indigenous groups made the island their home — for a while. The Ciboneys were followed by the Arawaks, and then the Caribs, who decimated the Arawaks and enslaved the survivors. At this time, the island was known as Camerhogue.
The second period was when Columbus came to the island in 1498, but didn’t settle, and renamed it La Concepción due to its resemblance to a region in Andalusia. (Later, French explorers would lay claim to the island and rename it La Grenade, which was popular enough for the British — for a while.)
But in practice, La Grenade proved to be unattainable and well-defended by the formidable Caribs. This changed during the colonial period, beginning in the late 17th century, when the French returned in an initially friendly relationship with the Caribs that escalated to violence. This period ended with the last of the Indigenous people jumping off what is now known as “Leapers’ Hill.”
For the next few decades, the French and British did what they often do: fought a war over it. The wind blew in Britain’s favor, and it claimed ownership of Grenada in 1762. Shortly thereafter, the importation of Africans began and officially ended in 1838, but the use of indentured Indian workers continued until 1890. Today, most of its population descends from the enslaved Africans brought in by Europeans; a smaller number of citizens are descendants of the indentured Indians and European settlers.
Granada declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1974.
During my time on the island, I found the most appealing aspect of this island was its people. My fondest memories are of laughing over bad jokes as the sun set in the town of Lower Woburn. Soca played in the background as people shimmied along. The glasses of Clarke’s Court Rum went down smoothly, urging me to move closer to the famous 69-percent alcohol white rum. I watched the moon dance over the night sky while eating a local dish known as “oil down.”
Grenada became personal to me as an overlooked destination that hoped to stay undiscovered and keep its rustic charm. Yet I knew that was impossible.
My suggestions are based upon my preferences. They are where I found the most authentic experiences and where I continue to relive my fond memories of the island. Hopefully, they will be where you find your best experiences.
1. Saint George’s
Upon your arrival to the capital, you will have undoubtfully seen the fort above the town: Fort George. Once named Fort Royal by the French, it is now primarily used as an attraction and the headquarters of the police department.
Start at the fort and observe the surrounding landscape. Explore its interior, too, which was once a bastion tracer fort (meaning it’s full of cannons, cannon balls, and gunpowder).
Before heading back down the hill, explore the adjacent area and visit St. George’s Anglican Church, which was recently reconstructed after being reduced to a shell by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
If you are feeling hungry, an ideal place to have lunch is Sails Restaurant and Bar. During my visit, I spent too much time at the bar chatting away. To get yourself into the island mood, I recommend a meal including conch or shrimp with some local Clarke’s Court House Rum to wash it down.
Afterward, if you are in the mood to relax and get some beach time, walk to the Christ of the Abyss statue and book a ticket on the Rhum Runner II, a party boat.
If you have a sweet tooth, pay a visit to the House of Chocolate museum and, if available, the Grenada National Museum to learn more about the history of the country. Stop by the Spice Market to learn why the island received this nickname.
Round out your day at Schnitzel Haus restaurant to both people-watch and enjoy views of the Carenage harbor before calling it a night.
2. Annandale Falls And Concord Falls
Although different in scale, each waterfall yields rewards for exploring the interior of the island. Locals may ask if you would like to see them jump off Concord Falls for a few East Caribbean dollars. Personally, uninterested in the proposition, I opted to compensate them for allowing me to take a few photos. Feeling like an adventurer, I used my time to explore the surrounding forest before taking a plunge to cool off and float as the vines and background noise lulled me into a relaxing trance that made it difficult to leave.
3. Belmont Estate
The is the site of Fédon’s Rebellion (March 1795–June 1796), a failed uprising against British rule in Grenada that is well worth researching.
Belmont Estate serves as a peek into how a Caribbean plantation looked and functioned. You can walk the grounds and interact with the past via the quarters and group tours. The three most important aspects of a visit are to learn how spices created Spice Isle, the importation of enslaved people and their role in the spice trade, and finally, how the local diet got spicier.
4. Eating In Grenada
To spend time on a Caribbean island and not try its local cuisine is to not have experienced the island at all. Belmont Estate’s various food tours include chocolate and goat byproducts, and the payoff is at the onsite restaurant.
Use your senses to explore the food vendors in St. George’s while drinking coconut water. Conversations, gossip, music, and stories are shared over food.
For me, all it took was to be pointed in the right direction. Whether it was grilled octopus, oil down, coconut shrimp, or conch salad. I wanted and succeeded in trying everything while salivating as it was being prepared close to my chair.
5. Grenada Beaches
Fort Jeudy, Grand Anse, And La Sagesse
Both the start and end of my days were spent over the water. My routine started with watching the sun rise over Woburn Bay. I woke before dawn just to wait for the sun and to stare at the light filling the valley below as it made its way toward my chair, which was properly positioned for the event, always to the right at an angle.
The afternoon was spent with calypso streaming into a small hut of a bar while I drank a few Carib beers. Grand Anse and La Sagesse were beaches with so few people, except for the occasional couple gliding past on a boat tour or jet ski, that I lost myself within my thoughts and smiled as I walked barefoot on the beach.
As the water touched my toes, slowly making its way towards my ankles, I looked left and right to make sure no one was watching. Laughing to myself and wondering if it was my own private paradise, I saw another traveler walking slowly across the beach, looking over. We made eye contact with the acknowledgment of a grin before we both went back to our separate mental excursions. I wondered if he was also thinking what I was thinking.
At that moment, I looked down to see a small crab and it moved just out of reach. Perhaps this was its way of telling me to go away as I was interfering in their activity. I took the hint and headed back into the hut for another drink and shrimp appetizer while looking back out to the beach instead of the television screen.
As my bottle emptied, the bartender asked if I wanted another, to which I readily said yes. Once the cold and soothing bottle reached my palm, I took a moment to complement the sensation with a quick swig.
At that moment, I asked if he knew any local gossip. He took a moment to think and simply responded, “A big cruise ship is coming in two days. The town will be busy.”
I looked back outside and wondered if the passengers would get far enough outside of Saint George’s to experience what I was viewing.