St. Georges, Grenada
Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa … those heady aromas fill the air in Grenada (pronounced gruh-nay-da). Only 21 miles (33½ km) long and 12 miles (19½ km) wide, the Isle of Spice is a tropical gem of lush rain forests, white-sand beaches, secluded coves, exotic flowers, and enough locally grown spices to fill anyone's kitchen cabinet. St. George's is one of the most picturesque capital cities in the Caribbean, St. George's Harbour is one of the most picturesque harbors, and Grenada's Grand Anse Beach is one of the region's finest beaches. The island has friendly, hospitable people and enough good shopping, restaurants, historic sites, and natural wonders to make it a popular port of call. About one-third of Grenada's visitors arrive by cruise ship, and that number continues to grow each year.
Grenada's capital is a bustling West Indian city, much of which remains unchanged from colonial days. Narrow streets lined with shops wind up, down, and across steep hills. Brick warehouses cling to the waterfront, and pastel-painted homes rise from the waterfront and disappear into steep green hills.
The horseshoe-shaped St. George's Harbour, a submerged volcanic crater, is arguably the prettiest harbor in the Caribbean. Schooners, ferries, and tour boats tie up along the seawall or at the small dinghy dock. The Carenage (pronounced car-a-nahzh), which surrounds the harbor, is the capital's center. Warehouses, shops, and restaurants line the waterfront. The Christ of the Deep statue that sits on the pedestrian plaza at the center of The Carenage was presented to Grenada by Costa Cruise Line in remembrance of its ship, Bianca C, which burned and sank in the harbor in 1961 and is now a favorite dive site.
An engineering feat for its time, the 340-foot-long Sendall Tunnel was built in 1895 and named for Walter Sendall, an early governor. The narrow tunnel, used by both pedestrians and vehicles, separates the harbor side of St. George's from the Esplanade on the bay side of town, where you can find the markets (produce, meat, and fish), the Cruise Ship Terminal, the Esplanade Mall, and the public bus station. St. George.
Ft. Frederick. Overlooking the city of St. George's and the inland side of the harbor, the historic fort provides a panoramic view of about one-fourth of Grenada. It was started by the French and completed in 1791 by the British; it was also the headquarters of the People's Revolutionary Government before and during the 1983 coup. Today, it's simply a peaceful spot with a bird's-eye view of much of Grenada. Richmond Hill, St. George.
Ft. George. Grenada's oldest fort was built by the French in 1705 to protect the harbor. No shots were ever fired here until October 1983, when Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and several of his followers were assassinated in the courtyard. The fort now houses police headquarters but is open to the public daily. The 360-degree view of the capital city, St. George's Harbour, and the open sea is spectacular. Church St. Admission charged.
Grenada National Museum. The museum, a block from the Carenage, is built on the foundation of a French army barracks and prison that was originally built in 1704. There are exhibitions of news items, photos, and proclamations relating to the 1983 intervention, along with the childhood bathtub of Empress Joséphine (who was born on Martinique), and other memorabilia. Young and Monckton Sts. Admission charged.
Market Square. This is the place to buy fresh spices, bottled sauces, and handcrafted gifts and souvenirs to take home. In addition to local spices and heaps of fresh produce, vendors sell baskets, brooms, clothing, knickknacks, coconut water, and more. The market is open every weekday morning but really comes alive on Saturday from 8 to noon. Granby St., St. George's, St. George.
St. George's Methodist Church. Built in 1820, the oldest original church building in the city is still in use. It has no spire, unlike the more elaborate churches in the St. George's. The building itself was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 but has been completely refurbished. Green St., near Herbert Blaize St., St. George's, St. George.
St. George's Roman Catholic Church. The church's Gothic tower, which dates from 1818, is the city's most visible landmark. Church St., St. George's, St. George.
Elsewhere on Grenada
Concord Falls. About 8 mi (13 km) north of St. George's, a turnoff from the West Coast Road leads to Concord Falls-actually three separate waterfalls. The first is at the end of the road; when the currents aren't too strong, you can take a dip under the 35-foot cascade. Reaching the two other waterfalls requires an hour's hike into the forest reserve. The third and most spectacular waterfall, at Fountainbleu, thunders 65 feet over huge boulders and creates a small pool. It's smart to hire a guide for that trek. The path is clear, but slippery boulders toward the end can be treacherous without assistance. Off West Coast Rd., Concord, St. John.
Dougaldston Spice Estate. Just south of Gouyave, this historic plantation, now primarily a museum, still grows and processes spices the old-fashioned way. You can see cocoa, nutmeg, mace, cloves, and other spices laid out on giant racks to dry in the sun. You can buy spices by the bag. Gouyave, St. John.
Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station. Touring the nutmeg-processing co-op, in the center of the west-coast fishing village of Gouyave (pronounced gwahv), is a fragrant, fascinating way to spend a half-hour. You can learn all about nutmeg and its uses, see the nutmegs laid out in bins, and watch the workers sort them by hand and pack them into burlap bags for shipping worldwide. The three-story plant turned out 3 million pounds of Grenada's most famous export each year before Hurricane Ivan's devastating effect on the crop in 2004, when most of the nutmeg trees were destroyed. By 2013, production finally began to reach pre-hurricane levels. Main Rd., Gouyave, St. John. Admission charged.
Grand Étang National Park & Forest Reserve. A rain forest and wildlife sanctuary deep in the mountainous interior of Grenada, Grand Étang has miles of hiking trails for all levels of ability. There are also lookouts to observe the lush flora and many species of birds and other fauna (including the Mona monkey), and a number of streams for fishing. Grand Étang Lake is a 36-acre expanse of cobalt-blue water that fills the crater of an extinct volcano 1,740 feet above sea level. Although legend has it the lake is bottomless, maximum soundings have been recorded at 18 feet. The informative Grand Étang Forest Center has displays on the local wildlife and vegetation. A forest ranger is on hand to answer questions; a small snack bar and souvenir stands are nearby. Main interior road, between Grenville and St. George's, St. Andrew. Admission charged.
River Antoine Rum Distillery. At this rustic operation, kept open primarily as a museum, a limited quantity of Rivers rum is produced by the same methods used since the distillery opened in 1785. River Antoine (pronounced An-twyne) is the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean. The process begins with the crushing of sugarcane from adjacent fields; the discarded canes are used as fuel to fire the boilers. The end result is a potent overproof rum, sold only in Grenada, that will knock your socks off. (A less strong version is also available.) River Antoine Estate, St. Patrick. Admission charged.
Grenada's best souvenirs or gifts for friends back home are spice baskets filled with cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, bay leaves, cloves, turmeric, and ginger. You can buy them for as little as $4 in practically every shop, at the open-air produce market at Market Square in St. George's, at the vendor stalls near the pier, and at the Vendor's Craft and Spice Market on Grand Anse Beach. Vendors also sell handmade fabric dolls, coral jewelry, seashells, and hats and baskets handwoven from green palm fronds. Bargaining is not appropriate in the shops, and it isn't customary with vendors-although most will offer you "a good price."
Bathway Beach. This broad strip of white sand on Grenada's northeastern tip is part of Levera National Park. A natural coral reef protects swimmers and snorkelers from the rough Atlantic surf; swimming beyond the reef is dangerous. A magnet for local folks on national holidays, the beach is almost deserted at other times. Changing rooms are located at the park headquarters. A vendor or two sometimes sets up shop near the beach, but you're smart to bring your own refreshments. Amenities: parking (no fee); toilets. Best for: solitude; snorkeling; swimming; walking. Levera National Park, Levera, St. Patrick.
Grand Anse Beach. Grenada's loveliest and most popular beach is Grand Anse: a gleaming 2-mile (3-km) semicircle of white sand, lapped by gentle surf, and punctuated by sea grape trees and coconut palms that provide shady escapes from the sun. Restrooms and changing facilities are available at Camerhogne Park, which is the public entrance and parking lot. Hotel guests, island visitors, and locals love this beach, but there's plenty of room for everyone. Amenities: food and drink; parking (no fee); toilets; water sports. Best for: sunset; swimming; walking. 3 miles (5 km) south of St. George's, Grand Anse, St. George.