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Go Beyond the Beach in Grenada
The dramatic landscapes of this volcanic island in the Caribbean beg to be explored.
While many areas of the Caribbean are still recovering from 2017's devastating hurricanes, Grenada escaped any damage and is a hotter destination than ever. The former British colony boasts dramatic mountainous landscapes and a rich spice-producing heritage. Here are the top five reasons to visit this volcanic isle.
Historic St. George’s
Grenada’s capital, founded by the French in 1650, is a charming jumble of stone buildings with colorful facades that rise along steep hills around the deep Inner Harbour. The imposing Catholic cathedral dominates the skyline, while the harbor waterfront, known as the Carenage, is lined with restored Georgian buildings that now house shops and restaurants. Hike up to Fort George, a 300-year-old fortress with working cannons (they fire during special occasions), for 360-degree views of the city, harbor, and Caribbean Sea. For a unique underwater adventure, dive trips frequently depart St. George’s for the Underwater Sculpture Garden in nearby Molinere Bay, where dozens of human figures in whimsical poses form a fascinating artificial reef that attracts a wide array of sealife.
While tourists flock to hotspots such as Grand Anse Beach south of St. George’s, go off the beaten path to Grenada’s rugged Atlantic coast. Back roads will bring you to hidden coves with golden beaches bare of footprints and coral reefs just offshore that are perfect for snorkeling. Stay at Cabier Ocean Lodge, an eco-friendly resort perched on a peninsula between two bays, where the soft roar of the waves sounds all night long. The on-site restaurant, Bruno's, has a seaside terrace shaded by mango trees and serves up passionfruit mojitos and Grenadian favorites such as callaloo soup, a creamy soup made from the green leaves of the callaloo plant.
Grenada is especially rich in waterfalls that tumble down its volcanic slopes. The highest is Royal Mount Carmel Falls, a spectacular cascade that pours 70 feet over a sheer rock wall. Local guides lead visitors along a trail through lush greenery that opens up to a breathtaking view of the falls. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit—a broad natural swimming pool at the base invites taking a dip, welcome after the hot jungle walk.
A British import in the 19th century, nutmeg trees flourished in Grenada’s tropical climate, and the small island now produces almost a third of the world’s supply of nutmeg. Cinnamon, cloves, mace, and ginger are also exported, as well as organic Grenadian chocolate (considered some of the finest in the world) that’s grown and directly produced from the island’s many cacao farms. Spice naturally plays a large part in Grenadian cuisine—don’t miss trying nutmeg ice cream or nutmeg jelly—and even medicine (a folk remedy calls for mashing nutmeg and rubbing onto feet for pain relief). Hit up the Spice Market in St. George’s (open daily) for a vast array of spices, or travel farther afield to Grenville’s local market, where you can find fresh ginger, coconuts, passionfruit, and blocks of chocolate. On the west side of the island, tour the Gouyave Nutmeg Station, where you can watch sorting and packaging.
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Grenada’s non-touristy and often overlooked sister isle is a secluded paradise, where life is little changed from decades past. Hop on the Osprey Lines ferry from St. George’s that drops you directly at the dock in Hillsborough, Carriacou’s multicolored main town that showcases Afro-European music and culture. The Green Roof Inn, just a short walk from town, is a breezy white lodge whose second-floor restaurant veranda offers stunning sunset views of the Caribbean. The island’s aptly named Paradise Beach is a perfect crescent of smooth white sand lapped by turquoise waves that is virtually empty most days. For avid divers and snorkelers, there are more than 30 dive sites nearby—Carriacou is known as the “Land of Reefs” for its vibrant coral reefs in crystal-clear waters.
Based in Washington, D.C., Karen Carmichael frequently contributes to National Geographic Travel. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram.