Where else in the Caribbean will you find an island that has it all? Lush green hillsides with homes precariously balanced on stilts; an abundant supply of fruits, vegetables and exotic spices; exuberant carnival festivities; and warm and smiling faces all year round. From her rivers and waterfalls to her white and black sand beaches, Grenada is truly the land of variety. The island has always stepped to the beat of a different drum. Not swamped by mass tourism, Grenada has maintained its sense of identity.
Walking around the historic Carenage, a city of Georgian architecture clinging to the mountainous hillsides, one is reminded of Portofino. Narrow streets with the occasional cobblestone alleys hint at a bygone area. Brinks and fish-scale tile roofs were bought here as ballast in the tall ships hundreds of years ago during the sugar boom. The traditional wooden sloops built on the sister island of Carriacou still ply their trade right on the waterfront of the Carenage where you can have local food at the Creole Shack while watching sailors throw boxes of drinks, food and all manner of goods from the shore onto the sloops.
The people of Grenada pride themselves on being independent and hard working, with a great sense of humor evident everywhere on the island. The owner and chef at BB’s Crabback (a local restaurant on the Carenage) comes out after everyone has had a meal to blow his conch shell and announce that if anyone can guess the name of the song playing right now, then the meal is “on the house” … as far as I know, no one has so far.
Buses all have huge stickers on them announcing their names (Obsession, Power Boy, Success, Generation). Jump on one and find yourself part of the local culture as stories, music and laughter fly back and forth. The bus service is top notch; one can see the whole island for a very small cost this simple way. Hire a taxi or rent a car to see all else the island has to offer, from historic forts to cascading waterfalls.
Stop off at the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station to learn how the nutmeg is sorted, dried, stacked and shipped. Head over to Belmont Estate for a meal cooked on a traditional coal pot (cast iron oven/grill); make sure you have the nutmeg ice cream and the callaloo soup, then head down to the estate for a tour to discover how cocoa is turned into the famous Grenada Chocolate. Run your toes through the cocoa pods as they dry in the bouccan tray, a process similar to the crushing of grapes.
A trip to the Grand Etang Forest is a must, and stopping at the volcanic Crater Lake takes you to a different world. At over 1200 feet, this area takes on a different temperature and, if you are lucky and walk with bananas, you may see one of the Mona monkeys.
When the day is done, sit at Garfield’s Bar on Grand Anse Beach sipping on a Carib (local beer) as the sun drifts slowly off into the horizon, and pick one of the island’s great restaurants. I recommend Patrick’s on the Lagoon for the most unusual of meals. Patrick, a colorful character, cooks all local food and will bring out 20 or so dishes—so make sure you go there hungry. Try oil down, Grenada’s National Dish—a combination of salt meats, breadfruit, callaloo, pumpkin, dumplings, figs, coconut milk and a variety of other spices—and his other specialties, all cooked with local spices.
Aquarium on a Sunday for the beach barbeque offers dancing to the live band and swimming in the waters on this perfect stretch of white beach. La Luna and Beach House offer some of the best in international cuisine, while Roger’s Bar on Hog Island is a great place to spend the day eating a local meal while jamming to the live band on this small island a mile off of Grenada on the South Coast.
For nightlife, head over to the Horny Baboon on a Thursday night for Salsa dancing or to one of its famous Full Moon Parties. Grenadians are amazing dancers so this is not a night to be missed. Go to the National Museum on Friday evening starting at 5.30 for live jazz and poetry, then head to Prickly bay for a live band and some great pizza. At DeVinos, have a glass or two of wine—
then everyone normally ends at Bananas. Not for the faint of heart, this is a huge student hangout (the St. George’s University has over 4,000 American Students), so expect to dance until the sun comes up.
Grenada is also quickly becoming the place for yachts to go. Camper & Nicholsons Marinas recently acquired the old Grenada Yacht Services marina in the lagoon and have built 170 berths for yachts between 20 and 300 feet with power, water, Wi-Fi, a pool, restaurant, boutiques, garbage disposal, etc. included. Port Louis is ideally located close to the capital of St. George’s and only a five-mile drive to the International Airport which has connections from Miami, New York, London, Canada and Germany.
Close by, one can find chandleries, supermarkets, the historic market square, gyms, tennis and basketball courts, and cricket and football fields. There are great beaches on the Port Louis compound and it’s a five-minute dinghy ride over to Grand Anse beach. This is the closest marina to the Grenadines, with an international airport, which makes it an ideal base for exploring these islands. There are also three very good boatyards on the island that can haul over 500 yachts between them.
Come anytime, or visit during an event. Races include the Grenada Sailing Festival from January 29 to February 2, 2010, the South Grenada Regatta February 26 to 28, the Grenada Round the Island Race March 12 to 14 and the Carriacou Regatta in August.
The Spice Island has great sailing, friendly people and stunning natural beauty to explore—add an active Marine and Yachting Association (MAYAG) to new infrastructure and a government that understands the needs of the yachting industry—and Grenada the new place to be.
Danny Donelan is the Marketing Director for Camper & Nicholsons Port Louis Grenada Marina.