There’s more to the Caribbean than the well-trodden cruise destinations your coworkers, neighbors, and even mother-in-law rave about … although those are pretty nice, too. For your next vacation, consider a getaway off the beaten path: Grenada. The country, situated in the southeastern Caribbean Sea, encompasses the island of Grenada itself plus the two smaller islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Here’s why this lesser-known gem deserves a visit.
1. Grenada Grows the Freshest Spices
Nutmeg, anyone? In Grenada, dubbed “Spice Isle,” nutmeg is a priority — Grenada is one of the world’s largest producers. The aromatic spice is even on the national flag. Stop by of the many nutmeg facilities on the island open to tours. If nutmeg isn’t your thing, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cocoa also thrive in Grenada. In fact, it's is the only place that produces all three varietals of cocoa.
The local cuisine takes full advantage of the harvest. Indulge at Belmont Estate, an organic farm and restaurant that serves up fresh eats and hosts experiences, like the “Bean to Bar Chocolate Tour.”
2. Beaches Galore
Grenada boasts over 45 black and white sand beaches, and there’s something for everyone. Grand Anse Beach, Grenada’s most popular, is a two-mile stretch where amenities and vendors abound -- you won’t be lacking comfort (or icy, rum-infused beverages). If you’re after a more secluded bathing experience, consider La Sagesse, a 30-minute drive from Grand Anse, for solitude.
Carriacou and Petite Martinique, the smaller islands of Grenada, are accessible via ferry, and offer up stunning (and typically even less populated) beaches. Picturesque Paradise Beach is perhaps the most well-known Carriacou beach, and off the shore, accessible via water taxi, is Sandy Island. Sandy Island is your quintessential desert island — a sandbar with only the sparsest vegetation. Its surrounding reef is prime for snorkelers and divers.
3. Art Beneath the Sea
In Grenada, what’s beneath the Caribbean Sea — and we’re not just talking about the reefs and marine life — is as spectacular as the beaches themselves. About 25 feet below Moliniere Bay lies Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, a collection of submerged artworks made of materials designed to promote coral growth. What might be the most iconic work is Vicissitudes, an outward-facing ring of children holding hands. British artist Jason deCaires Taylor launched this project, the world’s first underwater sculpture park, in 2006 after Hurricanes Ivan and Emily destroyed many of the island’s reefs. Years after installation, the sculptures are providing a home for marine life.
4. The Actual Island(s)
Waterfalls, rainforest, tropical gardens, hot springs, and more comprise lush inland Grenada. Grand Etang National Park in the mountainous interior is home to all kinds of crazy wonders, including a seemingly bottomless crater lake and Seven Sisters Falls. The falls are not-to-miss for those willing to put in some legwork. A 45-minute hike takes you down a series of pools, or you can tackle all seven in around two hours. Keep your eyes peeled for cocoa, nutmeg, and banana trees, and the monkeys feasting above.
Annandale Falls near St. George’s is another great option for waterfall-chasers, and less of a trek; it’s accessible via a low-key garden stroll.
5. Adventure Abounds in Grenada
... And there’s something to suit everyone’s appetite. If you’re looking for a medium-sized adventure, consider tubing down Grenada’s Balthazar River. The river is almost unbelievably picturesque, almost like a theme park designer’s invention. Navigate the rapids and stop along the way to float in clear pools, or even sip a rum punch during the course.
Or, literally run through the jungle in a Grenada “hash,” a noncompetitive group excursion that takes participants through scenic trails. Walking is acceptable, too – organization Grenada Hash House Harriers’ most senior hasher to date was a sprightly 86. Many hash groups, including Hash House Harriers, consider knocking back a few beers integral to the post-event experience.
6. Grenada’s Bright Culture
Don’t miss out on local events where Grenada’s rich culture is on display. Partake in the annual Carnival festivities with J’ouvert street parties, complete with music, dancing, and costumes. Or, check out the three-day Carriacou Maroon & String Band Music Festival. In 2017, the event kicks off on April 28th and celebrates giving thanks through music, “smoke food,” and more. Also, try to catch Fish Friday, a weekly occurrence in the fishing town of Gouyave. There, you’ll groove to the sound of steel drums and sample local delicacies like “lambie waters,” a.k.a. conch soup.