The spice gods were calling my name, so I packed my bags and let my culinary cravings lead me to Grenada – also known as the Isle of Spice.
I was raised in a family where salt and pepper were the only spices used to season meals. When I left the nest, I made it my mission to fulfil my desires for spice and all things nice. Grenada satisfies both these aspirations.
Located in the Windward Islands, the southern part of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, this Caribbean nation of 110,000 people is actually composed of three islands: Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. The main island of Grenada, first sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1498, is only 34 kilometres long and 18 kilometres wide.
Grenada is not big in size, but it’s teeming with natural beauty: lush rainforests, imposing cliff faces, white sandy beaches and numerous waterfalls. And, of course, the Isle of Spice is full of the plants that produce spices.
My nostrils rose to attention the moment I arrived in Grenada. The sweet scents of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and ginger wafted gently in the air and put my olfactory glands into overdrive. Despite the island’s small size, Grenada leads the way in having more spice per square mile than any other place on earth. Cocoa, turmeric, vanilla and mace are just a few in the roster of spices grown on the island. My favourites seem to be among the common scents that appeal to men: vanilla and cinnamon.
In the spice hierarchy, nutmeg is king in Grenada, one of the largest producers and exporters of nutmeg in the world. Gouyave and Grenville are two nutmeg-processing stations where visitors can experience and learn about how nutmeg is separated and graded before being exported.
Chocolate lovers (that’s me!), will want to make a beeline to the Belmont Estate, where cocoa is harvested and the Grenada Chocolate Company, which uses some of that cocoa. Hairpin turns and bumpy mountain roads to get there are well worth it. Don’t forget to drive on the left-hand side!
I visited the processing plant to see how chocolate is made. Giant outdoor pods filled with thousands of cocoa beans could be observed and smelled. Of course I had to sample or my taste buds would not have forgiven me. I broke one bean open to feel and taste it in its natural state.
Besides the chocolate factory, the Belmont Estate features a heritage museum, meticulously landscaped gardens, cultural performances, a gift shop and a large open-air restaurant serving up local specialties at lunchtime. If you’re a seafood fan, Fish Friday, which takes place along a few streets in the fishing village of Gouyave, is a must for locals and visitors alike. When you are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west, a seafood smorgasbord is celebrated. Local vendors cook up fresh, affordable fish dishes with a healthy helping of local culture.
If you want to quaff a few local brews with your seafood dishes, Carib and Stag are the most popular beers on the island. However, the West Indies Beer Company is trying to introduce some stronger pale ales to the mix.
Of course I can’t go to a Caribbean island without a visit to a rum distillery. The River Antoine Rum Distillery showcases its rum-making processes that haven’t changed since the 1800s. In fact, it’s the oldest water-propelled rum distillery in the Caribbean. I sampled a few rums, including a 150-proof Rum Royale, a wickedly potent rum that made me temporarily believe I finally had some of that Caribbean rhythm.
Dodgy Dock is a favourite hangout for both locals and visitors. Dine, drink and dance while overlooking True Blue Bay as various boats and yachts sail by. Be sure to treat your palate to local specialties, like callaloo, while relaxing dockside.
Mother Nature at her finest
Grenada offers scenic and natural attractions, as well. Built in 1706, Fort George provides grand views of the harbour and St. George’s, the capital city. Cascading waterfalls from the mountains above and lush rainforest fill the island’s landscape. Grenada’s natural gem, Grand Etang National Park, covers 30 acres and features Grand Etang Lake, which is situated 1,740 feet above sea level.
Making sandcastles is easy with almost 50 white sand and 15 black sand beaches. Pack the camera and visit Grand Anse Beach, considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Grenada’s beaches are a year-round water playground – and art gallery. Check out the sculptures in the world’s first Underwater Sculpture Park in Molinere Bay.
Grenada seductively and gently reeled me into its island grasp. The spices’ aromas, warm island breezes and friendly locals added up to an intoxicating and pleasurable spice-filled getaway. For further information on Grenada, visit grenadagrenadines.com
Where to stay
Just like the spices on the island, Grenada boasts a variety of accommodation styles from boutique inns, budget motels and villas to full-scale resorts. Here are two popular luxury resorts you may want to consider:
Re-opened in December 2013 under the Sandals brand, Sandals LaSource Grenada is an ultra-luxury and ultra-fun all-inclusive resort. It features 225 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites (some with private plunge pools) in three villages. You won’t go hungry with nine restaurants, many à la carte, including the new Butch’s Chophouse. Three large pools and Pink Gin beach will keep the water lovers happy and a butler service is available to attend to every need. Be pampered at the signature Red Lane Spa or get active with an array of poolside activities. You can also venture out on a dive or snorkelling expedition.
This chic luxury boutique resort, which originally opened in 1961, has been a vacation getaway for the rich and famous as well as vacationers who relish personalized service. The AAA Four-Diamond resort offers 64 spacious and well-appointed rooms (17 have their own private swimming pools). For those looking for a truly romantic, quiet getaway, Spice Island Beach Resort delivers the goods in a highly personalized and friendly way. The staff knows each guest by name. Watersport activities are included in the room price and there is a Nutmeg Pod Activity Centre for children ages three to 12, allowing the adults to relax without worry. The resort looks out on a 2½-mile quiet beach. Two restaurants will satisfy any food craving you have after some pampering in the intimate Janissa’s Spa, which offers a myriad of treatments.