Caribbean Beat Magazine

Top 10 things to do in Grenada

From remote hot springs to Italian food on Grand Anse beach, Grenada provides unexpected activities for the fun-loving...

  • Congo the Soup Master at work. Photograph by David Katz
  • The Concord Falls. Photograph by David Katz
English: carriacou st patrick map of grenada
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Grenada is an unspoilt gem. Known as the Spice Isle for the nutmeg and cinnamon, clove, ginger, vanilla, lemongrass, bay leaf, thyme, and turmeric that grow so abundantly here, Grenada is a wonderfully green and serene place, a tranquil oasis that has thankfully avoided the over-development that has blighted so much of the Caribbean, despite being home to some of the best beaches in the world. In addition to its virgin rainforest, majestic mountains, calming lakes and invigorating waterfalls, all of which are home to much exotic wildlife, the island also has a vibrant culture that has made its small population some of the most proud yet welcoming folk on the planet.

As it lies at the southernmost tip of the Windward Isles, Grenada feels off the beaten tourist track, but it’s the kind of place that quickly gets under your skin, and visitors often find themselves compelled to return.

There are dozens of things to do in Grenada, but here are ten of the most obvious.

1 Go to the beach

Every Caribbean island raves about its beaches, but Grenada really does have some of the finest. The most spectacular is Grand Anse, whose pristine white sand stretches for a mile and a half, with marvellous views in every direction, its sheltered waters ideal for swimming. Tucked away behind a hilltop, the secluded Morne Rouge is thoroughly romantic and has good snorkelling opportunities along the coves that line its western side, while remote Moliniere can only be reached by boat.

Dramatic Bathway, at the island’s northeastern tip, is a popular picnic spot for local families, who cook virtual feasts on the shore at weekends and holidays, and on the southeastern tip of the island, La Sagesse has a nature reserve as well as its own beach and a small restaurant, making it an ideal place to spend a day or two.

As all Grenadian beaches are open to the public, they are good places to meet locals as well as other travellers, and none are marred by imposing hotels or concrete apartment blocks, thanks to the island’s sensible building code.

2 Explore the rainforest

Home to the Grenada dove (the national bird), rare Mona monkeys, armadillo (known locally as tatou), a type of opossum known as manicou, and other uncommon animals and birds, as well as all kinds of intriguing plant life, the mist-enshrouded Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve is a sense-surround experience of nature in all her glory. Its centrepiece is Lake Grand Etang, once an active volcano. From its vast, lofty interior, a series of breathtaking hikes can be undertaken, including the demanding climb to Mt Qua Qua, for which a guide is essential—try the legendary Telfour Bedeau, a sprightly 67-year-old known as the “Indiana Jones of Grenada,” who has hiked over 10,000 miles since 1962 (473 444-4128), or the equally reliable and courteous Denis Henry of Henry’s Tours (473 444-5313).

3 Dive into waterfalls

With all that rainforest perched atop mountain peaks, Grenada has plenty of active waterfalls, several of which are spectacularly dramatic. The Royal Mount Carmel Waterfalls is the most forceful of the bunch, cascading down from over 70 feet, and the three at picturesque Concord Falls have pools that are ideal for swimming. Close to the capital of St George’s, lovely Annandale Falls is easily accessed. Hikers can also trek to the Seven Sisters, seven falls just outside the Grand Etang forest, but the difficult terrain means that hiring a guide is once again essential.

4 Sizzle in remote hot springs

Many Windward Isles are volcanic, and although Grenada’s peaks are now dormant, the submerged volcano known as Kick ‘em Jenny, offshore between Grenada and its sister island Carriacou, is still definitely active. Geological activity finds an outlet in the River Sallee Boiling Springs, six fascinating waterholes in the far northeast: the water in each of the pools has a temperature of 35 degrees C, and many of them hold clear, salty water, despite being over a mile from the sea.

5 Sip a unique tipple

Despite the decline of its sugar industry, Grenada has several active distilleries, all making rum of distinctive character. My personal favourite is Rivers Antoine, an organic, slightly over-proof rum whose cane is still crushed by an ancient waterwheel; the estate and distillery are open to visitors (473 442-7109).

Other notable rums include Tradition Spiced, Clarks Court and Westerhall, while Carriacou has label-free Jack Iron, which is certainly not for the fainthearted.

Grenada’s best homemade rum punch can be found nightly at Le Chateau, an atmospheric hangout near the Grand Anse roundabout.

6 Take a bite

Grenadian cooking blends African, Asian and European traditions and with so many fresh ingredients on the doorstep, the end result is often memorable.

For the well-heeled, there are upscale “fusion” establishments such as the Red Crab, Belair Plantation and the Aquarium, and you can find genuine Italian cooking at La Luna or La Boulangerie in Grand Anse.

But make sure to try the stewed lambie (conch) at Coconut Beach and oildown (breadfruit stew) from roadside eateries at lunchtime, along with reliable roti from D Roti Hut, opposite the Grand Anse roundabout. For something memorably different, grab a bowl of hearty ital stew from the Soup Master, near the Lagoon roundabout.

7 Experience Grenada Carnival

Although not nearly as large as those held in Port of Spain, Rio, Notting Hill or Brooklyn, the Grenada Carnival, which takes place in August, is certainly worth experiencing. In addition to being a generally joyous time to be on the island, Carnival is particularly noteworthy for the unique cultural displays of the island’s traditional revellers, as seen in the oblique pantomime known as Vercu Mas, and in the fearsome bands of “Short Knees” who sing songs of condemnation while wearing masks and costumes that blend an African tunic with belled anklets and the ornate, three-quarter breeches of a Spanish conquistador.

8 Come to terms with culture in Carriacou

The extremely unhurried pace of Carriacou makes the place feel like a throwback to another era. A short boat ride from Grenada, it is easily accessed and well worth the effort. Aside from Carriacou’s own pre-Lenten Carnival, the best time to visit is in April, when the Maroon Music Festival and Big Drum Dance celebrates the islanders’ African heritage, or at Christmas, for Carriacou’s annual parang competition, in which local artists sing satirical verses based on the previous year’s political and social scandals.

9 Enjoy festive fetes

Though Grenada’s nightlife may be less frenetic than some of its larger neighbours, there are several intimate venues that often feature popular Caribbean music. The reliable Fantasia 2001 nightclub’s regular Wednesday night “Back In Time” session presents vintage reggae and soca to a mixed clientele, while Club Bananas, near True Blue Bay, is popular with medical students. True party animals should not miss the Friday night Fish Fry in the fishing village of Gouyave, a rambunctious street fete and seafood cook-up that lasts to the wee hours of the morning.

10 Chill out and regenerate

One of the greatest things about Grenada is that the place is generally relaxed, so much so that newspapers are printed only on a weekly basis. Being 12 miles wide and 21 miles long, the island is roughly twice the size of Washington, DC, yet is home to merely 90,000 people, making Grenada one of the least crowded nations in the world. Local communities have maintained a strong sense of tradition, pride and generosity, resulting in a refreshingly low crime rate, despite the political upheaval in the early 1980s and more recent hurricane damage.

Even St George’s, the picturesque capital, somehow feels roomy, its atmospheric streets stretching up from the glorious harbour at the Carenage, while the ample coastline around Grand Anse is home to spectacular sunsets that sometimes result in the legendary “green flash,” in which the sun briefly appears to change colour.

My advice is to stretch out in a hammock each evening to make the most of the island’s cooling trade winds. Grenada is the ideal place to commune with nature, to alleviate stress and regenerate.