My guide to the Caribbean spice island of Grenada: the best places to eat, drink, stay, shop and sail. Or just relax on a hammock and drink in the views
My love affair with Grenada began when I was just a boy.
I grew up in Venezuela, only a couple of hundred of miles away, and we first visited in 1952. I remember it vividly. My mother took a video of me running along the beach and I still watch it. It was also the first time I learned about boats, which has become a lifelong passion for me. Now I have a home there and I’m based there as often as I can be.
Unquestionably, it’s one of only a few, if not the only island in the Caribbean, which has remained unspoiled, yet has a modern infrastructure. The medical facilities are excellent; there are never power cuts and my phone always works. Most of the islands are quite developed and to some extent have lost some of their beauty and uniqueness. Grenada strikes a perfect balance. The people are sophisticated and there is beauty and history everywhere you look. It’s a lush island covered with mountains, tropical rainforests and waterfalls.
The people are really lovely; warm and friendly and genuinely pleased to have you on their island. They are party people too; they know how to have a good time.
The world has passed Grenada by in the tourism sense. The people wouldn’t want mass tourism. They want some development but they want it to be subtle and gentle. Grenada has a quaint charm and lots of history. Not much has changed since those days when I ran carefree along the beach.
What to do
Go up into the mountains. Grand Etang is a favourite of mine; it’s absolutely wonderful. There are acres of flowers, stretched out like a colourful carpet, colourful birds are flying everywhere and wild monkeys are all around. The spices growing up in the mountains fill the air; up there the island’s beauty really hits you in every sense. It’s truly magical.
I also love to hit the beach. It seems obvious but the charms of a great beach can never be underestimated. My favourite is Grand Anse Beach. Nothing beats going for a lovely warm dip. No building on the beach is higher than two floors. The sand is powdery and white, there are no weeds, there’s no tide and it’s simply a fantastic beach. There’s a great place called Coconut Beach (+1 473 444 4644 www.coconutbeachgrenada.com) at the other end of the beach from my hotel, Mount Cinnamon. They serve French Creole cooking and it’s a treat to take a walk along the beach and reward yourself with a rum punch at the other end.
Another attraction that I have to recommend is a snorkelling and diving site about ten minutes from the capital of St George’s. There are plenty of places where you can get a little boat or there are plenty of people willing to take you there. I can’t remember the name of it but it is famous the island over for a very quirky feature. There’s an English chap, an artist, who has created 80 sculptures out of stone. There’s a secretary with a typewriter, a couple embracing. They’re absolutely beautiful and they are all sitting on the seabed. It’s the only place like it on the island and everyone locally, every boatman, every hotel, knows of it.
Some of the island’s best attractions lie in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
The fishing is tremendous in Grenada. Marlins are abundant and you’ll constantly be catching them, tagging them and throwing them back into the water.
Going to see the dolphins is also a marvellous way to get out on the water and have one of the most amazing experiences the world can offer. I was out on a boat with my daughter during a recent trip. For about 15 or 20 minutes there were at least 30 dolphins swimming in the waters around us. It was incredible.
I’m not a diver myself but I know a lot of people who dive and they say it’s perfect. Grenada is in the top eight diving locations in the world so it can’t be bad.
If you’re into sailing it’s worth chartering a boat and heading out to Carriacou. The waters are incredible and they have a funky little town and market. The beaches and sandbars here are just divine too.
Back on Grenada the market in St George’s is an interesting slice of local life. It’s not really a touristy thing but stalls offering fruit and vegetables, straw baskets and clothes give you a real flavour of Grenada. The fish market is also exciting. Grenada still has a very big fishing fleet. Not many people know that the islanders ship lobster to Barbados!
Where to stay
Sat right on Grand Anse Beach, Mount Cinnamon is like going to your best friend or family’s place. It’s very homely and friendly and has a wonderful laid-back atmosphere. The landscaping around the villas is spectacular and there is a lot of fun to be had here.
There’s also a great Italian place along Grand Anse Beach called Laluna. It’s a beautiful Italian experience in the Caribbean and the food alone is worth visiting for.
The Spice Island Beach Resort is a family-run place and is so thoroughly different to anywhere else you’ll stay on the island. It’s Grenadian through and through and they really know how to do the personal touch well.
Where to eat
If I was recommending a place to eat on view alone it has to be Savvy’s at Mount Cinnamon (+1 473 439 9900; www.mountcinnamongrenadahotel.com/dining.php). I know most of the Caribbean, and I’ve seen some views in my time in the south of France and in the Italian Riviera, but the view from Savvy’s is absolutely breathtaking. It’s my favourite view in the world and it is world class. It just so happens the food is pretty fantastic here too. It has a gastro pub feel to it and you order off a blackboard. It’s a sweet taste of the Caribbean and one of those places where you’ll sit and say, “do I really have to go home on Friday?”
Once again, two of my other top recommendations are Laluna and Spice Island. Laluna (+1 473 439 0001; www.laluna.com/restaurant) offers wonderful Italian food and Spice Island (+1 473 444 4258; www.spicebeachresort.com/Dining) offers a great classical feast.
The Calabash Hotel & Villas feature the Rhodes Restaurant (+1 473 444 4334; www.calabashhotel.com/rhodes_restaurant.php), which is one of Gary Rhodes’ acclaimed culinary ventures. The fish dishes I’ve had there have been divine and I often treat myself to the whiskey-flavoured rice pudding. It’s served in its own copper saucepan and it’s heavenly.
When to go
It really doesn’t matter when you visit Grenada. Unlike many other parts of the Caribbean the island is out of the hurricane belt. Plus, it’s never too hot and never too cold as it sits so close to the Equator. But I think the time best suited for a visit is between November and May. It’s always beautiful but at other times of the year it can be less lush at sea level, of course it’s always lush up in the mountains where it’s so moist. In saying that, August is an incredible time to visit because of the Grenada Carnival. I take my teenagers and there is honestly nothing else like it. The Notting Hill Carnival is for boring old folks compared to the Grenada Carnival. It’s during the school holidays so take the kids, they will love it.
Why I love Grenada
Grenada is an island with old world charm and a real flavour of the West Indian Caribbean. Yet saying that, a jumbo jet can land at the airport and your mobile phone still works standing under the curtain of a waterfall halfway up a mountain.
It’s a dream island.