Spicy Grenada

Published: April 22nd 2015
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This year’s choice for my spring break professor getaway was Grenada. In recent years I had read that the ‘Spice Island’ was one of the better all-around Caribbean destinations and one that wasn’t as yet over-touristed, particularly by Americans. My experience would confirm this. The nation of Grenada consists of the main island of Grenada and the two smaller islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. It is positioned in the southern Caribbean near Venezuela. I split my short one-week excursion between Grenada and Carriacou. I must admit that I knew nothing about Carriacou before going to Grenada but it is here where I would kick my feet up when returning to Grenada.

I was off to Carriacou on the Osprey ferry after landing in Grenada the previous night. Departure was delayed a half-hour after a truckload of bananas showed up . . . welcome to island time J. The hour and a half ride got quite rough especially after clearing the main island. However, I was very fortunate to meet Lynette, who grew up on Carriacou, and David and Anita, two Americans who owned a house on Carriacou. These three significantly improved my enjoyment of the island. Arriving in Carriacou is scenic as you pass Sandy Island sitting just in front of Paradise Beach and then arrive in the village of Hillsborough. There is a fairly high likelihood of you being able to see your hotel or guesthouse as come in on the ferry. This was the case with me as I saw the Grand View Hotel sitting just up on the hill above Hillsborough. I would recommend the Grand View as it really does have a great view, particularly at sunset. It is priced reasonably relative to other places on the island, and has a friendly staff. However, the beds could use some updating and I was kept awake by dogs barking and roosters bellowing throughout the dark hours. Also, I didn’t eat at the hotel on recommendations of others and think it was a good choice to head down into town for food.

Right off the boat I headed over for my first meal (of many to come) at the Kayak Kafe and joined up with David and Anita. Afterwards, they let me tag along with them giving me a ride over to Paradise Beach. The beach really is one of the gems of the island. We hung out near the Off the Hook bar. I also picked up my only souvenirs from the island at a great little shop named Fidel Productions located in an old shipping container very near the beach.

My first night on Carriacou just happened to be pan music night at the Lambi Queen restaurant on Tyrrel Bay. This event is a bit of an institution for both tourists and locals. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Lambi for the food but the music is definitely worth the experience. The energy of these musicians is amazing as they go on in rhythm for hours. This is a truly Caribbean experience and a great welcome to the Island for me.

My next day I was off to hike the High North trail that is really a combination of soft surface and hard surface roads going up the west side of the island. The main attraction here is the Anse La Roche beach, the best beach on the island. I was so happy to be joined by Lynette as we walked all the way up and over the top of the island to the village of Winward – something that can easily be accomplished in an afternoon. The High North Trail starts in a small village, Bogles, just up the coast from Hillsborough. The trail starts in the village by veering slightly to the left. Eventually you take another left (not well marked) off the High North onto a single-track trail that works its way down for maybe a ½ mile to Anse La Roche. You are likely to have the beach mostly to yourself with the exception of the occasional visiting yacht. Anse La Roche is a beautiful beach to lounge on the sand or to do a little snorkeling. I carried my snorkel and fins and really enjoyed snorkeling along the north side of the beach. On our way in to the beach we ran into David and Anita who were also headed down for a little snorkeling. I found it comical how you would continually run in to people you knew on Carriacou. I soon began to expect and really love this about the island.

Hanging out with Lynette was like having my own personal tour guide as she gave me a little history of the island in addition to a perspective of what it was like to grow up and now work on the island after going abroad for her university degrees. If you do this hike and continue on around the north side of the island you will be rewarded with some great views over Petit Carenage Beach. In Winward hopped on the local minibus going back to Hillsborough to complete our journey.

The scenic highlight of my trip to Grenada was my day trip out to the Tobago Keys. I went with Allison and her boat piloted by Mojo. Allison’s group is highly recommended around the island and I can vouch for that. The day trip cost me $125 and I went with two other Americans, Al and Jeannie, who were also staying at the Grand View. After hanging out with Al and Jeannie at the Lambi Queen they had given me tips on the High North trail and then I had recruited them for the Tobago trip. The excursion was worth every penny that we paid. Mojo jettisoned us out to Petit Bateau in a small boat where we set up our base for the day, and then we were quickly off to Baradel to snorkel just off shore in the green turtle sanctuary. The water here is very clear and you look down onto white sand. There is very little coral here but with the clear water and white sand it makes for excellent viewing when you venture upon a turtle or one of the many large starfish. Back on Petit Bateau we had a wonderful lunch provided by Allison and then an opportunity to snorkel offshore. Just off the beach you see manta and sting rays and there is also good fish viewing amongst the coral. We were quite excited to get the chance for up close viewing of the stingrays, a first for me after snorkeling in many locations around the world. We ended the day with a quick stop at Union Island before heading back to Carriacou. We joined Allison for dinner that night at the Lazy Turtle (also on Tyrrel Bay). As an avid pizza eater I was skeptical going in but quite happy to find great pizzas. They are a bit pricey but very tasty with fresh ingredients in a nice setting.

I didn’t get to stay long enough to try all the restaurants that I wanted. On my return I would like to try Bogles Round House which gets great reviews online and also by the locals. However, I heard that the chef was leaving by this summer. I would recommend the French toast for breakfast at the Kayak Kafe. And if you are in need of something to carry you over later in the day ask Chris at the Kayak if she will be making chocolate chip cookies for you to pick up. The locals also talked up the little Pizza Meh Heart joint in the village of Winward but it was closed when Lynette and I were there.

On the day I was leaving I tagged on a morning tour (approx. $50) with Allison before catching the ferry back to Grenada. It turned out to be a great choice. Allison first drove a British couple and myself all over the island for a bit of history, driving through the local villages, and also to take in some great views. Then we took a trip out to Sandy Island where Allison and Mojo fixed us a great lunch under a tent and got in a couple more snorkel sessions. There was an abundance of fish at the corner of the island. In some places I swam through schools of small glimmering silver fish, while in other places there were a number of more colorful varieties to view. This was a great way to top off my trip as Allison timed it just right to get us over for the afternoon ferry departure. I was a bit sad to leave Carriacou after making a number of friends and having many great experiences in just a few short days.

After arriving back in the port in St. George’s I was met by Cecilia who was hosting me through AirBnB. She generously offered to pick me up and give me a ride to her place located just off the golf course that sits above the Grand Anse Beach area. Again, I was really lucky with the decision to go with AirBnB and get a chance to stay with a native Grenadian. Cecilia had been born on the Island and had recently moved back after many years in the UK. Her hospitality was wonderful and she had an interesting assortment of fruit trees in her back yard from which she readily shared the fruit. Plus, she made killer sour sop smoothies. Sour sop is a fruit from the island that is currently trending due to its healthy properties. If you are headed toward Grand Anse Beach (which you are likely to be at some point on your visit) then I would highly recommend stopping in and getting a smoothie at the Native Food and Fruits stand inside the Spiceland Mall that sits just across the road from the beach.

With only two full days on the main island I tried to make the most of them. I started the first day by walking down to the Grand Anse Beach, which is probably the main attraction of the Island. There I was able to sign up for a snorkeling tour of the unique Underwater Sculpture Park. While waiting I walked to the end of Grand Anse and then up the stairs to the road and down into Morne Rouge Beach. Here I took a quick swim and checked out the beach. I had considered staying at the hotel at the end of this beach but was really glad that I had changed my mind and gone with AirBnB.

National Geographic listed the Underwater Sculpture Park as one of the 25 Wonders of the World. It is located just up the coast to the north from St. George’s in Moliniere Bay and was about a 10-15 minute boat ride from Grand Anse. I was the only snorkeler in the boat joining 3 others who were scuba diving. The Park consists of a number of submerged sculptures mostly developed by a local artist named Jason deCaries Taylor that are placed in various locations around the bay. One of the sculptures was even modeled after one of the male scuba guides on my boat. I considered myself lucky to be the only snorkeler because I then got a personal guide from the company who swam around with me to help me locate and then describe the sculptures. I definitely found the experience to be unique and also a bit haunting. I’m glad I made the effort to go out there. I’d estimate that I spent 30-40 minutes all total going from sculpture to sculpture. I was told by one of the locals (and have also read) that this can be done without taking a company but it appeared that it would take some planning and a decently long swim to accomplish – so I stuck to the tour.

On recommendation by Cecilia I was off the next day for a full day tour of the island with Tom Sanderson (Land and Sea Tours). With just two other women from Canada we were off in Tom’s van for a very affordable ($60 plus tip) and informative excursion. In retrospect, I am very happy that I went with Tom instead of a bigger tour outfit because I can’t imagine a better tour, not to mention price. He is very entertaining and even handed out maps and told us to prepare for a quiz over the regions of the island. Later, I earned a sucker for a prize for getting a question correct . . . and it was these little things that Tom did to make the day enjoyable. We first headed up above St. George’s for excellent views of the city and bay below. Then we drove up through the middle of the island towards Grand Etang National Park. I very much enjoyed driving through the villages as we went and then also seeing the natural beauty and change to the lush green vegetation as we approached Etang. Along the way Tom would stop to show us examples of nutmeg, cocoa plants, cashews, and other plants. I found it fascinating to see a freshly plucked nutmeg popped open and surrounded by the red mace spice. Similarly, he showed us a cocoa pod and then cracked it open for us to observe the beans in the white pulp that are the genesis of the chocolate bars that I so frequently indulge in.

I wish I had had more time to hike in Grand Etang park. On the day trip we only had time for a drive through with a quick stop to see a mona monkey. Tom was obviously more versed than other guides at calling the monkeys and also came prepared with bananas. After some photo ops with the monkey we continued down to the Grand Etang Lake where Tom showed how, by sticking your feet in the water, you could get a free fish foot massage. On the way up to the north side of the island Tom stopped in a small village at the Home Taste Bakery and got some yummy fresh banana bread for us to try. It was so good that I ran back in and bought two more small loaves! Tom also got us these small packages of sorrel flavored ice and this is how I discovered my taste for this unique flavor coming from the sorrel flower. If you are in Grenada give a try to the red drink that comes from the flavor of boiling the sorrel leaves. It will be a regular for me when I return.

On the north side of the island we saw leftover planes from the USSR and Cuba and a black sand beach. However, there was quite a bit of litter covering the beach and it wasn’t really one for spending the day laying out. After this, we hit up the Grenada Chocolate Factory. There we had a nice tour that described how their chocolate was made and then visited the store to pick up samples. We had a very forgettable lunch just outside the entrance of the rum factory. This was the one thing I didn’t like on the tour and would probably ask Tom about before the next tour. We skipped the rum tour and chose to spend more time at the other stops during the afternoon. We finished the north side of the island by stopping at Leaper’s Hill where in 1651 the indigenous Carib people leapt to their death rather than being taken captive by the French.

Next, it was on to the second chocolate factory, Jouvay. We got another nice tour here and got to sample their chocolate. Unfortunately, they were out of the nutmeg flavored bars when we were there but I was able to get a couple bars at the airport on the way out of the country. We then headed to the Gouyave Nutmeg Factory where I was amazed at the endless racks of nutmegs. It was interesting to hear about uses for nutmeg and also the mace that is removed from the outside of each nutmeg. I took the opportunity to grab some nutmegs and also some nutmeg lotion to work on sore areas of the body. Our last stop was at the Concord Waterfall where we got the chance to get in the water and cool off at the bottom of the falls. Tom took the opportunity to jump in from the top as we watched.

Overall, I think the trip was quite a success and in retrospect I think I doled out my time pretty well. I’m sure there are many things that I could have seen on the main island of Grenada but opting for the quieter but scenic Carriacou was a great option. If I were to return I would like to spend more time in the Grand Etang National Park, check out St. George’s University, and also take in more around St. George’s. Also, I feel that I really missed out on any good restaurants on the main island. If you are looking for a good, all-around Caribbean island I think Grenada is a great option!

Additional photos below
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6th May 2015

Many thanks for sharing your experiences in Grenada ...one of my all time favourite places. I have not made it over to Carriacou but having read your blog and seen the great pics I will do next time .. Best wishes, Annette
6th May 2015

Glad you enjoyed the blog! Yes, I look forward to my return to spend more time in both Carriacou and Grenada!

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