Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide
Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Explore St. George's, the Colorful Capital
No trip to the “Spice Isle” would be complete without wandering the winding, hilly streets of the capital city St. George's. Founded by the French in the early 18th century, this picturesque seaport is a living monument to Grenada’s colonial past and retaining much of its original architecture and charm.
A stroll through St. George’s reveals brightly colored French colonial buildings perched on steep hills overlooking the yacht-filled harbor. The horseshoe-shaped Carenage wraps around the inner portion of the harbor, lined with open-air restaurants, shops, and vendors. Grab an ice cream or fruit smoothie and wander past the bobbing boats, taking in views of the capital.
Make your way up to Fort George, established by the French in 1705 on a bluff overlooking the Carenage. Climb the stone staircase for panoramic views of the capital and harbor. Peer through narrow slits in the fort's stone walls, imagining defending the fort from enemy ships. Then head to St. George's Market Square to see historic churches like the towering Anglican St. George's Church and the neo-Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
For a blast into Grenada's past, don't miss the Grenada National Museum in an old colonial-era barracks. Peruse exhibits detailing the island's history from its early Arawak inhabitants to the present day. Climb upstairs to the military museum displaying uniforms and weapons from the island's turbulent 20th century history.
Afterwards, head over to Belmont Estate to get an inside look at a historic plantation great house and working spice estate. Tour the restored 17th century manor house and stroll through fragrant nutmeg, clove, cocoa and mace gardens. See cocoa pods and nutmegs drying at the estate's processing center. A delicious lunch or afternoon tea on the breezy veranda is a treat.
Grenada is rightly called the “Isle of Spice”, and many companies in St. George’s offer tours and tastings. Visit Dougaldston Spice Estate just outside town to see how spices like cinnamon, turmeric, vanilla and bay leaves are grown and processed. Enjoy a rum and coconut water punch and intriguing dishes made with local spices at the L’Atelier Turmeric restaurant on the estate.
What else is in this post?
- Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Explore St. George's, the Colorful Capital
- Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Indulge in Grenada's Famous Nutmeg Treats
- Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Hike and Swim Through Grand Etang National Park
- Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Visit Historic River Antoine Rum Distillery
- Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Snorkel or Dive at Underwater Sculpture Park
- Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Taste Local Cuisine at a Street Food Market
- Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Relax on Beautiful Grand Anse Beach
- Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Experience a Traditional J'ouvert Morning
Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Indulge in Grenada's Famous Nutmeg Treats
Of the many spices grown in abundance on the aptly named “Spice Isle”, none is more beloved or intrinsic to Grenadian culture than the fragrant nutmeg. The aromatic seed of the Myristica fragrans tree is so linked to Grenada’s identity that you’ll find the humble nutmeg emblazoned on the red, yellow, and green national flag.
Nutmeg has been cultivated in Grenada since the early 19th century when French colonists realized the island’s rich volcanic soil and tropical climate were ideal for growing what was then considered a luxury spice. Today, Grenada is the world’s second largest exporter of nutmeg behind Indonesia.
While exploring the capital St. George, stop by the colorful stalls of Market Square and breathe in the complex aromas of nutmeg and its cousin mace wafting through the air. Vendors sell strings of whole nutmeg seeds, dried and caked in their red mace husks, alongside graters, nutmeg jellies, soaps, candles, and crafts.
Don’t leave Grenada without trying nutmeg ice cream, sold from carts along the harbor front and throughout the capital. The cold, creamy treat is flavored with freshly grated nutmeg and often topped with an extra sprinkle for good measure. For a refreshing sweet nutmeg drink, order a punch made from local rum, milk, nutmeg, and sugar from beachside vendors or restaurants.
Take a taxi into the lush Grand Etang National Park and keep an eye out for the tall nutmeg trees with yellow fruit growing wild alongside the road. Pick up pre-packaged nutmeg tea or juice at the Grand Etang visitor center souvenir shop before venturing out on the park’s hiking trails.
Nearby in the village of Gouyave, attend the Friday “fish fry” street party and sample dishes highlighting nutmeg like oil down, a coconut milk-based stew loaded with callaloo greens, saltfish, breadfruit, and pumpkin and flavored with plenty of aromatic nutmeg.
No trip to Grenada is complete without visiting an operating spice estate. Belmont Estate offers insightful plantation tours and delicious lunches where nutmeg features prominently in the local creole cuisine. At Dougaldston Spice Estate, enjoy nutmeg-spiked rum punch or homemade nutmeg ice cream in the café before stocking up on nutmeg souvenirs in the gift shop.
Back in St. George’s, learn about nutmeg’s history and cultivation at the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association. Founded in 1936, this cooperative represents thousands of local nutmeg farmers. Tour the exhibits then stop by the gift shop stuffed with nutmeg products from syrups to soaps.
Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Hike and Swim Through Grand Etang National Park
Tucked away in Grenada’s lush interior, Grand Etang National Park beckons adventurers eager to trade Caribbean beach lounging for jungle trekking and waterfall swimming. Encompassing nearly 4,500 acres around the island’s ancient collapsed volcano crater, this national park protects diverse ecosystems including rainforest, mangroves, and the stunning Grand Etang lake itself.
Several hiking trails ranging from easy twenty-minute loops to more strenuous two-hour treks allow visitors to experience the park’s natural beauty up close. Don’t miss the Rainforest Hike, a moderately difficult one mile trail descending through vine-draped mahogany and fig trees filled with chattering birds. Listen for the “whoop-whoop” call of the endemic Grenada dove and try to spot one of the elusive Mona monkeys that inhabit the forest. The trail ends at a peaceful lookout point over Grand Etang lake.
The gentler Lakeside Loop circles the crater lake’s shoreline under a lush canopy of immortelle, sandbox, and locust trees. Pause to admire views of the vivid blue lake backed by towering cliffs where tropical birds swoop and soar. Look for the national bird, the critically endangered Grenada dove, foraging along the lake edge. Afterwards, cool off with a refreshing swim in the lake’s calm waters.
Just south of the lake, the gentler Morne LaBaye trail leads through fragrant nutmeg groves and past a medicinal herb garden to a scenic overlook. Enjoy views over lush slopes dotted with nutmeg, cocoa, banana and coconut palms down to the west coast and Caribbean sea beyond.
For more adventurous trekkers, the demanding Mt Qua Qua trail climbs steeply up the side of a dormant volcano sub-peak before descending through thick vegetation to an isolated black sand beach on the remote east coast. Pack plenty of water, wear sturdy shoes, and allow 2-3 hours roundtrip for this strenuous hike.
After working up a sweat hiking, treat yourself to a reviving swim at Annandale Falls hidden in the emerald rainforest near Grand Etang’s northern edge. A ten-minute downhill hike leads to the photogenic waterfall cascading into natural pools perfect for a refreshing dip. Don’t forget your water shoes and swimwear for splashing about in these cool jungle waters.
Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Visit Historic River Antoine Rum Distillery
No trip to the Caribbean’s “Spice Isle” is complete without a visit to River Antoine Rum Distillery, Grenada’s oldest continuously operating distillery. Founded in 1785 and still utilizing most of the original machinery, River Antoine offers a fascinating glimpse into the island’s rum production history.
As soon as you step onto the distillery grounds, you’ll inhale the heady smell of fermenting molasses wafting through the air. Friendly staff greet visitors and explain the rum making process while leading them through the various distillation buildings. Inside the cavernous stone structures, you’ll see enormous copper vats, brick furnaces with raging fires, and a working waterwheel that powers the hydraulic press dating from the 18th century. Workers feed sugarcane into grinding mills while others monitor the bubbling molasses as yeast ferments it into alcohol.
The tour culminates with an intriguing visit to the still house where ancient logwood vats hold aging rum. As your guide scoops a sample of the smooth amber rum into your glass, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the generations of Grenadians who’ve plied this time-honored craft. Sip your complimentary rum sample straight-up or enjoy it mixed into a refreshing planter's punch.
Looking for some explosive fun? Stick around for River Antoine’s intriguing “most powerful rum tasting”, where overproof rum floats are ignited for a fiery spectacle. The experience vividly illustrates the dangerously high alcohol content of River Antoine’s overproof rum, bottled at a whopping 75% ABV/150 proof. Visitors are wowed by the strength of the rum, which powers muscle cars and even cuts through grease when washing dishes.
While regular proof rum costs just $6-7 USD per bottle at the gift shop, overproof will set you back $25-30 USD. But it makes for an intriguing souvenir or gift for rum aficionados. Select from uniquely shaped bottles like tall cylinders, prior year releases like the 2021 vintage, or limited single barrel bottles.
Beyond rum, the gift shop sells locally made syrups, hot sauces, spices, coffee, soaps, artwork, and crafts. Proceeds from the shop support the on-site restaurant that serves an inexpensive but delicious creole buffet lunch daily. Dine on provisions like callaloo, saltfish, breadfruit, and pigeon peas stewed in coconut milk and spiked with those aromatic Grenadian spices. Rum punch, planter’s punch, mauby, or sea moss drinks perfectly complement the flavorsome local specialties.
Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Snorkel or Dive at Underwater Sculpture Park
For a truly one-of-a-kind experience in Grenada, strap on some snorkel gear or scuba tanks and dive down to the fascinating Underwater Sculpture Park. Located off the west coast in the waters of Molinière Bay, this unique attraction combines art and environment to create an underwater gallery like no other in the Caribbean.
The first sculptures were installed in 2006 by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor in collaboration with the Grenada Board of Tourism. The sculptures were initially intended as an artificial reef to help restore marine ecosystems damaged by Hurricane Ivan. But over the years, the collection has grown into an expansive gallery with over 80 sculptures spread across roughly 15,000 square feet of seabed.
As you drift weightlessly between the concrete human forms standing, sitting, and reclining silently on the sandy bottom, it’s an otherworldly feeling. Schooling fish swarm the structures while coral, sponges and algae slowly transform the sculptures into living reefs. Taylor’s haunting figure of a solitary man at a desk sparks thoughts on climate change while a ring of children holding hands represents unity and environmental stewardship.
Scuba divers can submerge themselves fully into the experience, gliding through openings in the sculptures, peering into intricate details, and watching fish swarm out of hollow structures. But even for snorkelers, the park offers an incredible glimpse into this unique underwater world. Local snorkeling companies like Dive Grenada and Mythic Ocean Charters offer guided tours which provide floatation devices and flippers to aid with current and distances.
While swimming through the ethereal sculptures is an experience on its own, most visitors also come away moved by the park’s role in marine conservation. The sculptures were strategically positioned to attract reef fish and encourage coral growth. As the artwork becomes encrusted with algae and sea creatures, the park aims to facilitate the formation of a new living reef ecosystem. Studies have shown remarkable increases in biomass and marine species populations around the sculptures.
Beyond environmental impact, the thought-provoking sculptures also touch visitors on an emotional level. The blend of art and activism awakens our consciousness on issues like climate change, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, environmental stewardship and our relationship with the natural world. It’s the perfect integration of art as education, beauty and message.
Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Taste Local Cuisine at a Street Food Market
No trip to Grenada is complete without indulging in the island’s mouthwatering street food. For a lively taste of Grenadian culture and cuisine, head to the open-air street food markets popping up in different towns around the island each week. Vendors sell delectable local specialties from makeshift grills and stands as locals socialize over flavorful, affordable creole fare.
In the seaside capital St. George’s, Market Square transforms into an enticing spread of local food stalls on Saturday mornings. The aromas of sizzling barbeque entice hungry visitors to try Grenadian favorites like oil down, a savory coconut milk stew loaded with breadfruit, saltfish, callaloo greens, carrots and spices like turmeric and thyme. Queue up for a styrofoam box of the hearty one-pot meal paired with provisions like ripe plantains, yams or boiled green bananas.
For an iconic Grenadian snack, look for vendors threading thick fish cakes speckled with herbs onto wooden skewers before grilling the chewy, savory fritters over fire. Try one doused in a homemade bright yellow sauce - the perfect blend of tangy and spicy. You’ll also find seasoned meat kebabs, stuffed bakes, refreshing cane juice, and pots of rich sea moss drink made from the boiled and sweetened purple seaweed.
On Friday evenings, follow your nose to Gouyave for the lively “fish fry” unfolding along the town’s seaside promenade. This street party offers the island’s most buzzing food scene, with dozens of food stalls illuminated by strings of lights. Watch as vendors pull fresh red snappers, mahi mahi and flying fish straight from ice-filled coolers to coat in herbs and fry to crispy perfection right before your eyes.
Pair your flaky, moist fish with sides of callaloo fritters, tangy coleslaw salad with shredded cabbage and carrots, roasted breadfruit, fried plantains and a cold bottle of Ting grapefruit soda or Carib beer. Locals and tourists alike soak up the convivial atmosphere, noshing on seafood as the soca and reggae beats turn the promenade into an impromptu dance floor.
Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Relax on Beautiful Grand Anse Beach
With its white sand, translucent turquoise waters, and fringe of swaying palms, two-mile-long Grand Anse is considered one of the Caribbean’s most picturesque beaches. Located just south of St. George’s, this gentle crescent-shaped beach lives up to its name (“grand anse” means “big cove” in French) both in appearance and as Grenada’s largest resort beach.
By day, beachgoers bask in the sunshine and refreshing sea breezes. They stroll the soft white sands, swim in the calm sheltered waters, snorkel around offshore reefs, sail colorful catamarans, or play beach volleyball. Umbrella-shaded beach chairs line the waterfront while bars and restaurants like Umbrellas Beach Bar tempt with tropical cocktails and creole eats.
Come late afternoon, locals and visitors alike find their perfect spot to relax below billowing palms, cold drink in hand, for the nightly ritual of watching the sun sink below the horizon in a blaze of orange and pink hues. There may be no better place to soak in a Caribbean sunset than from the sands of Grand Anse.
Those seeking beachfront accommodations in a prime spot on Grand Anse will find plenty of options. From the chic Le Phare Bleu boutique hotel to the family-friendly Sandals LaSource Grenada and Spice Island Beach Resort tucked on exclusive Pink Gin Beach at the north end, Grand Anse offers high-end escapes for ultimate relaxation. Those on tighter budgets can bunk at mid-range spots like Coyaba Beach Resort or petite guesthouses neighboring the beach.
While the main stretch of Grand Anse offers activities galore, quieter patches await further south. Morne Rouge Beach is a secluded crescent beloved by locals that takes a bit of effort to reach, ensuring lighter crowds. Here the waters take on deeper blues and sands appear extra soft and white. Just offshore, a multi-colored fleet of fishing boats bobs in the sheltered cove. Unfurl your beach towel, crack open a book, and relax to the soothing sounds of waves gently lapping the shore.
Further south around Point Saline, stretches of untrammeled sands seem to stretch to infinity with nary a sunbather in sight. Here you’ll find serene seclusion for a romantic beach stroll or sunbathing au naturel European style if you please. Let the whispering winds and cries of wheeling seabirds keep you company in this pristine, peaceful corner of Grenada ringed by waving palms.
Making the Most of 36 Hours in Spice Isle Paradise: A Grenada Getaway Guide - Experience a Traditional J'ouvert Morning
As the first rays of dawn creep over the horizon on J'ouvert morning, revelers emerge onto Grenada’s streets ready to celebrate in true Carnival style. J’ouvert (pronounced joo-vay) kicks off the Monday before Carnival Tuesday, signaling the start of two days of raucous fetes and parades. During this lively predawn street party, thousands of Grenadians and visitors alike come together to dance, get painted up and embrace the spirit of Carnival abandon.
Arriving on the J'ouvert scene just before daybreak, you’ll find thumping soca music and crowds of colorfully dressed partygoers fueling up on rum punch. As the eastern skies lighten, massive sound systems mounted on trucks crank up the beats and the street party kicks into high gear. Revelers dance and gyrate through the streets, fueled by deafening music and liberating spirits.
This is the time to release inhibitions and get messy in the name of fun. Revelers joyfully cover each other in paint, mud, chocolate syrup, motor oil and whatever else they can get their hands on. By the end of J'ouvert morning, partygoers are often unrecognizable beneath layers of technicolor paint blobs, mud smears and food stains.
Locals attribute the tradition of getting painted up and soiled to a symbolic cleansing of society’s ills and renewal before their high holy Lenten season. But most approach the morning with a lighthearted spirit of revelry and mischief. Friends playfully paint each other’s faces, strangers smear handfuls of chocolate across each other’s bodies, and crews of paint-toting fiends hunt for “clean” victims.
Trucks loaded with speakers, DJs and drink stands follow along, while food tents dish up hearty pre-dawn fare like pig tail soup and roasted breadfruit - perfect fuel for hours of exertion. As the morning wears on, crowds make their way down to Grande Anse beach, where the party continues into the afternoon, only ending when bodies finally give out.