ST. GEORGE’s – Grenada
Almost within seconds of arriving at the off-the-beaten-track island of Grenada you will start to understand why this idyllic Caribbean gem has the alternative title of the Spice Island. Grenada supplies countries all over the world with its island-grown cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, turmeric, lemon grass and other fragrant spices and wherever you wander the scents of these seem to hang on the breeze or waft through the air.
Along with its swathes of verdant terrain given to growing spices and a huge diversity of tropical fruits, Grenada is also well along the way to becoming the Caribbean’s chocolate capital too with organic cocoa bean crops giving rise to several bean-to-bar chocolate makers. Fascinating tours of these production facilities are just one of the many ways you can spend your hours on this lush island which has an enormous menu of things to see and do, especially given its size.
The island’s pretty and historical capital of St George’s has enough to keep you busy for days at a time all on its own. Old Georgian buildings front what many consider to be the Caribbean’s most picturesque harbor and then crawl up the hillside behind to lead onto colonial forts, museums and churches. A handful of these sights still show clearly the destruction that hurricane Ivan left when it passed through several years ago.
Beyond St. George’s laid-back Grenada is a tapestry of Caribbean-perfect beaches of white sand (many entirely free of visitors), a lush tropical interior peppered with waterfalls, rivers and mountains and a series of fringing coral gardens full of colorful and fascinating marine life. Among its collection of reefs is an astonishing artificial one – a collection of submerged sculptures which the local corals are starting to colonize and which can be viewed by diving, snorkeling and glass-bottom kayak trips.
Grenada is a Caribbean island for every kind of visitor but if you are looking for a little slice of tropical paradise free of crowds, infused with history and with vast swathes of unspoiled natural beauty to explore then you will have found an island which perfectly matches your dream.
A Morning in St. George’s
Begin your Grenada day with a walking tour of the beautiful capital replete with look-out views of the spectacular kind followed by a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the island’s chocolate makers at work. If you prefer you can swap the chocolate theme for a nutmeg or rum one before you break for lunch at one of Grenada’s excellent restaurant choices.
Exploring St. George’s
A one-time colony of the French, Grenada came under British rule in the 1700s and its capital was then renamed St. George’s for the English patron saint. Once seen you are left in no doubt whatsoever as to why this gorgeous town spread around a horseshoe-shaped bay is so often referred to as one of the loveliest in the Caribbean. The town is peppered about with historical buildings and as most of them are clustered close together setting out on foot to explore is a wonderful way to begin your day on Grenada if you don’t mind a few steep hills.
As you stroll you will still be able to see some of the destruction left by hurricane Ivan in 2004 although plenty of rebuilding work has also been undertaken since that time too, restoring some of the town’s gems to their former glory.
From its lofty perch high above the harbor the main reason to visit this colonial military relic is for the magnificent views it affords of the picturesque Carenage, the blues of the bay and the long sweep of Grand Anse Beach to the south.
Originally established in the 1600s as a wooden defensive battery for protecting the port, the stone-built structures you see today date from the early 1700s. In the beginning it was named Fort Royal but had its title changed to Fort George when the British took over the island from the French in 1762.
The basic structure, principally made up of a series of imposing walls and walkways built up from the hillside, is mostly intact. Various other features still exist such as the parade ground, barracks and ammunition storage although hurricanes and general neglect has left them somewhat dilapidated. Beautifully preserved however are the heavy cannons which although now 300 years old are still occasionally fired to mark special dates in the Grenada calendar.
Besides representing the island’s oldest fort, this defensive leftover is also historically significant for another reason. The parade ground was the very spot where, in 1983, the revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was executed during a government power struggle, along with other members of his cabinet. Today a plaque marks the exact location of the events which led to an invasion by US military forces.
After taking in the heart-stopping views from Fort George you can make your way through the historic and narrow Sendall Tunnel. This narrow passageway which cuts directly through the hill was constructed in 1889 to allow horse-drawn traffic and pedestrians to move easily between the eastern extent of St. George’s and its western districts.
On exiting the tunnel you will arrive at the pastel-painted National Museum which despite a rather plain appearance is actually one of St. George’s oldest buildings. Originally constructed in 1704 during the French colonial era, the structure served as quarters for soldiers and later in its history became a prison when the island was under British rule.
The museum inside is not large but includes exhibits covering Grenada’s complete history stretching from the pre-colonial era and on through its chapters of plantations, slavery and whaling as well as covering the local flora and fauna.
Just north from the museum can be found the first of St. George’s collection of churches which all date from around the 1800s. St. Andrews Presbyterian Church is one of hurricane Ivan’s victims and all that remains today are two roofless walls facing each other with what was once the church’s interior overgrown with weeds. The pretty square clock tower however is very much intact and along with Fort George makes up the most distinctive feature of the town’s skyline.
One block north again from this ruined church can be found the ever-bustling Market Square where traders and growers gather to sell a colorful and aromatic range of island-grown produce with an incredible range of herbs and spices. In ages past this very area where you can now wander amid an abundant array of fresh goods and rainbow-hued umbrella shades had a darker purpose when it served as the site for public executions and the selling of slaves.
Running east from this square is the vertigo-inducing climb of Market Hill, often likened to the streets of San Francisco because of its steepness, which gives onto a beautiful view of the Caribbean from its crest.
Off Market Hill to the north and sitting high above the bay can be found the grand Parliament Building and the Supreme Court. With its original parliament building lost to hurricane Ivan, this majestic modern structure represents one of the town’s newest landmarks.
Across the other side of Church Street from here can be seen the town’s Roman Catholic Cathedral – the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Also boasting a pretty stone clock tower, this church was first constructed in 1884 and underwent extensive restoration following its hurricane damage in 2004. Perched at the top of the hill, this site gives some truly magnificent views over the entire town and the beautiful bay.
The last of the town’s three historic churches – the St. George Anglican Church – can also be found on Church Street as you start making your way down to the harbor. St. George’s dates from 1825 and like the town’s other churches is graced with a square-shaped clock tower. The clock itself, a latter addition from 1904, still continued to play its Westminster chimes every hour despite significant damage on 2004 after hurricane Ivan had passed through. Today. the church shows no signs of such a turbulent past, having been restored in full.
Making your way east from here you will now arrive at the Carenage – the town’s picturesque harbor. With color-splashed fishing boats bobbing on the inlet’s blue waters and a string of historical Georgian buildings overlooking the bay, it is instantly understandable why many consider this one of the Caribbean’s most scenic ports.
At the middle of the harbor can be found a bronze statue of Jesus, standing with upraised arms, known as the Christ of the Deep Monument. Although the full story of this gift to Grenada from the Costa Steamship Line is one with elements of controversy, the statue commemorates the brave and generous acts of the islanders during the sinking of an Italian cruise liner – the Bianca C – here in the 1960s. The 600ft wreck of the Bianca C still lies on the seabed just off the south-west coast of Grenada.
Morning Coffee in St. George’s
Blessed with rich, fertile soils and an ideal growing climate, the island of Grenada produces an incredible range of spices and fruits along with an abundance of cocoa beans. This latter has given rise to chocolate production on a large scale, much of it organic, and you can’t be on Grenada for any length of time before you will start seeing the results of its chocolate industry everywhere you go. All of this spells good news for the chocolate passionate and when it comes to take time for a morning pause you can indulge this to the full right in St George’s itself.
Located on Young Street and just a few steps from the National Museum can be found the magnificent House of Chocolate which serves as museum, gift shop and cafe. While coffee is available for those who can’t go without their caffeine fix it is really all about the chocolate here which comes in a variety of delectable forms, from the basic cup of hot chocolate upwards. From the mouthwatering aromas which surround you to the cafe’s round stools which resemble colored bean-studded cookies, this really is a heaven for all things chocolate. Also on the drinks menu are traditional island cocoa teas while for those ready for a mid-morning treat there is a great range of cakes and brownies available too. You will also see trays of handmade chocolates on sale, almost impossible to resist for those with a sweet tooth.
If you have time you can tour the mini-museum where you can learn all about chocolate making and if you are looking for unusual souvenirs and treats be sure to visit the gift shop before you leave.
If you can’t bear to tear your eyes away from the beautiful surroundings of the Carenage and the bay for one second you can take a coffee break at the town’s Carenage Cafe, right at the water’s edge.
Lovely harbor views are the real attraction of this cafe which has a covered porch out front while people watchers will have a front row seat from which to keep an eye on all the comings and goings. Normal cafe fare is available at this bustling little spot while for those who’ve worked up a bit of a thirst walking the St. George’s streets there are always ice-cold beers available too.
Chocolate, Nutmeg and Rum Tours
Known as the Spice Island due to its abundance of crops such as cinnamon and nutmeg, Grenada could just as well be called the Chocolate Island; cocoa plantations are draped across its hills while its chocolate makers create world-class products from the vast amounts of beans grown there. Besides its spice and chocolate Grenada is also a rum producer and for all those interested in the processes involved in these island industries you can take some entertaining tours to see behind the scenes.
The Diamond Chocolate Factory
One of the most fascinating of these is found at the Diamond Chocolate Factory in Victoria St. Mark whose cooperative of eco-friendly and sustainable practice cocoa grower owners produces Jouvay organic chocolate. Found on sale all over Grenada, the Jouvay name now extends beyond the island shores with National Geographic awarding it a place in the top 10 list of world’s best chocolates.
Of all the things most attractive about this special place, its gorgeous setting and the centuries-old history which surrounds you as you explore rank right up there. Wrapped within an area of lush tropical greenery, the principal building has an old French monastery and an equally ancient aqueduct as direct neighbors while the factory itself – built in 1774 – once served as a rum distillery for the monks.
Take a tour of the premises to learn about the entire bean-to-bar process including growing, harvesting, fermentation, roasting and the crafting of the bars and individual chocolates themselves. Every step of these processes which follow beyond harvesting is carried out right here so your chocolate-making experience will be both authentic and complete. Tours end with tasting sessions and if you still haven’t had quite enough of a chocolate fix after this you can head to the cafe for a chocolate smoothie or chocolate beer.
Also on site is a working model organic farm, complete with cocoa trees, which stretches over three acres and grows a variety of spices too. You can wander the marked pathways independently here, with plenty of signs to help you make sense of what you are seeing amid these lovely surroundings. If you encounter any farmers as you meander they are always happy to answer any questions you might have.
Last but not least this site has an attractive gift shop which besides its chocolate-themed treats also has an array of crafts produced by island artisans.
Nutmeg and Rum Tours
If the processes involved in nutmeg farming or rum distilling interest you more than chocolate both of these options are also available on Grenada.
Six kilometers south of the Diamond factory can be found the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station whose fragrance will hit you long before you arrive. Without a single piece of machinery in sight, you can take a tour of this rustic plant to learn how this spice is gathered and processed to prepare it for global export. You will learn why nutmeg trees were first brought here by the British in the 19th century, see endless racks of fruit being dried and be able to watch the crew of female workers sort nutmeg pods by hand.
Yet another piece of island history can be explored at the River Antoine Rum Distillery on the island’s north eastern edge. Having been producing rum for more than two centuries now, this charmingly rustic distillery surrounded by tropically-clad hills truly takes you back in time. Still utilizing the power created by its antique waterwheel and continuing production methods which have little changed since the beginning, the short tours here are fascinating, even for those with no interest in rum. Learn about the entire rum-making journey from start to finish as you watch, among other things, raw cane being fed into the grinding machinery, the firing up of the furnaces and the bottling, labeling and boxing which are the end of the production process.
Lunch in St. George’s and Grenada
Once you start turning your thoughts to lunch the majority of you restaurant choices can be found located in the pretty harbor capital or close by at the lovely Grande Anse Beach. However there are also other options dotted around the island and, no matter whether you chose to round up your morning discovering the behind-the-scenes secrets of chocolate, nutmeg or rum, you will now find yourself conveniently placed for what is possibly one of the best lunch buffets on the island.
Just three kilometers inland from the River Antoine Rum Distillery can be found the Belmont Estate which, incidentally, is another of the island’s spice producers and leading chocolate makers – the Grenada Chocolate Company. Once one of the island’s grand plantations which began life 300 years ago, the Belmont Estate and its working farm is today one of Grenada’s favorite tourist attractions but its fantastic lunch-only restaurant justifiably receives as much attention as its agri-tourism element.
Its setting nestled amid verdant hills and tropical lushness would be sufficient draw in itself to bring diners here, with a spacious open-sided restaurant purposefully designed to allow you full views of wild nature, cocoa trees, river and beautiful gardens. Along with this loveliness to gaze upon you will also find yourself constantly inhaling the fragrance of spices.
However, what really sets this eatery aside is its all-you-can-eat buffet of authentic Grenadian dishes, many made using ingredients grown right here on the estate. Things kick off with a choice of soups such as green banana from which you progress to a serve-yourself feast made up of fish, chicken, beef and mutton all presented in old fashioned coal pots. There is also a stunning array of side dishes such as lemongrass-scented rice, an impressive salad bar and some of the most delectable home-made ice-cream you are ever likely to taste in a range of tropical flavors including mango, nutmeg, bergamot and cinnamon. To wash it all down there are juices made from fruits harvested just meters from where you dine and some made-on-site chocolate treats to round it all off.
Sunday lunchers get the extra bonus of live music while on other days of the week you might be treated to a performance by island dancers or drummers. If you have the energy to move after such a sumptuous spread you are free to wander this 300 year old site, discovering relics of the past or simply enjoying the beauty of this gorgeous place.
If you choose to head back to St. George’s for lunch but would still like to try some authentic island cuisine head to Patrick’s Local Homestyle Cooking. With the hint of this converted-home restaurant’s offerings all in its name, Patrick’s is another place where you’ll need to arrive with a big appetite. Charmingly casual and with tables on the covered porch or out front beneath shades, this open-air restaurant has a la carte menu options with some seafood choices or such things as goat curry and burgers, However it is its great value for money fixed tasting menu which makes it such a hit with both locals and visitors alike.
A true budget feast, this is tapas the Grenadian way where you will be presented with around 15-20 different small plates of traditional island foods to work your way through. Everything is of the home-style cooking variety so you will get to sample exactly the kind of dishes served up in family homes with such things as stir-fried rabbit, tannia root fritters, callaloo, breadfruit salad, conch creole and much more. Desserts such as home-made chocolate cake are also part of the deal and the rum punches here are said to be top-notch.
An Afternoon In and Around St. George’s
Water babies have an incredible menu of choice on Grenada. The simplest way to enjoy the crystal clear waters of this Caribbean island is to take a cooling dip or swim from one of its gorgeous beaches but there are some other thrilling choices for the more adventurous.
An Afternoon on the Water
For those who want their water time to have an aspect of the exhilarating, like the idea of taking the helm of their own craft and want to include a bit of snorkeling Grenada has the perfect answer. Heading out on an inflatable two-person motorized dinghy lets you combine the thrill and freedom of being your own captain with all the advantages of being led by a knowledgeable guide so you won’t miss a thing.
Heading directly out from St. George’s or the Grand Anse area, you will get to see the gorgeous Carenage from a totally different aspect before passing the yachts at anchor in the marina and heading out to open ocean to zip along the scenic coastline. Whether you’re cruising slowly to take everything in or prefer to give your dinghy its full (and fast) speed to get the adrenaline pumping, your guide will typically lead you to one of the island’s premier snorkeling spots so you can get up close with the marine life which inhabits the coral reefs.
One popular snorkel stop included on such tours is the incredible Underwater Sculpture Park which sits in five meters of water at Molinere Bay. Included on National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World list, this sunken stone garden is now gradually becoming a beautiful artificial reef as corals colonize the figures, resulting in an environment in which marine life can thrive. Made up of 75 sculptures, this ethereal site features such works as ‘The Viccisitudes’ with its ring of children and ‘The Lost Correspondent’ – a stone sculpture of a seated man at his typewriter.
Another way to visit the sculpture park and otherwise have a water adventure-filled afternoon is by glass-bottom kayak. Such trips give the viewing advantages of snorkeling but without having to get in the water and feature highly stable two-person ‘sit-on’ kayaks so you can hit the open waters with confidence. Guides on these tours will lead you to a range of west coast sites where you will be able to have a direct window onto the underwater world as you paddle over the coral reefs.
Kayak tours are also possible around the southern coast where you can glide amid the hush of mangrove forests and visit tucked away beaches.
It is also possible on Grenada to have some watery fun inland – this time with rainforest scenery and the chance of spotting some of the wildlife living there. Weaving its way through the luxuriant tropical vegetation of the island’s lush interior can be found the Balthazar River, known to islanders as the Great River. Where this waterway meanders through the historic Balthazar Estate you can take a river tubing ride which has elements of both thrills and serene floating. Equipped with a paddle and life vest you will follow your guide to experience a journey full of beautiful tropical greenery and where a series of tranquil pools intersperses some faster sections in which you’ll be spun by the currents.
Pre-Dinner Drinks and Dinner in St. George’s and Grenada
From beach bars and roadside shacks to venues with a touch of class, the drinking and dining options on Grenada offer the full range of possibilities. Most of your options cluster around the beautiful capital of St. George’s or the long creamy-white sweep of Grand Anse just to the south.
If you are one of the many who find it unthinkable to arrive at tropical shores and not take advantage of the range of beach bars right on the sand Grenada offers several choices in this category. Located at Grand Anse’s northern end and closest to St George’s, Coconut Beach is one venue which both embodies the Caribbean spirit and ensures you are at absolute beachfront. Painted in shades of lime and purple and with azure waters lapping just meters away, Coconut Beach perfectly places you for ideal sunset-watching while offering some wonderful nutmeg-spiced rum punches to sip as you watch the beautiful display.
Coconut Beach has both a spacious wooden deck and thatched-umbrella tables on the beach and after-dark this watering hole, which also serves as a restaurant, takes on an extra air of enchantment as lanterns and fairy lights wink into life.
Savvy’s Beach Cabana is another Grand Anse choice, this time offering the chance for sundowners sprinkled with a touch of elegance and sophistication. Part of the Mount Cinnamon Resort, Savvy’s has a lovely interior of comfortable chairs and sofas beneath its lilac roof while still giving you idyllic views of the Caribbean with the sun sinking into it. Alternatively you can grab a lounger right on the sand and order up one of its cocktails, wines or beers. If you happen to be here on a Friday night the magic of this already special spot is enhanced with a romantic bonfire on the beach with some soft pan live music mixing in with the sounds of the sea.
In line with so many of the Caribbean destinations Grenada is a true treat for seafood fans. Even those restaurants which don’t specifically sell themselves as seafood venues tend to have plenty on the menu in this category while other spots have reputations based on it.
The family-run and beach-shack-charming Coconut Beach is one such, drawing in diners to feast on its famous steamed lobster, Calypso ginger cream conch, fish creole and seafood platters. Also on the menu are steaks, burgers and pasta dishes, all given a West Indian twist and if you dine here be sure to leave some room for the desserts such as the coconut pie.
As you will already know if you chose Coconut Beach as your sundowner spot, this wonderful venue has an array of tables right on the beach along with a covered dining deck, all of which offer a direct view onto the Caribbean Sea which laps just a few feet away. Once the sunset has finished its spectacular display, Coconut Beach switches on its strings of fairy lights and ignites its lanterns to give this breezy spot a distinctive air of romance.
If you want to spread your wings a little further and discover another little corner of Grenada head to the gorgeous Dodgy Dock at the True Blue Boutique Resort on the south coast. This highly atmospheric spot places you on a gorgeously lit wooden deck which sits over the water and offers a casual but upscale dining option.
Quite what culinary delights lie in store for you here will depend upon the night of the week you arrive as every day has its own special theme. Mondays, for example, are pasta, pizza and wings night, Wednesdays give you the chance to sample the rich traditions of the island’s street food while on Saturdays the Dodgy Dock hosts an evening of romance and barbecue.
If you happen to arrive here on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday you also get entertainment thrown in for free with live music to serenade you as you dine.
An Evening in St. George’s
Wandering amid the low-key bustle of St. George’s, hunting down some live music or simply liming (as the locals say) at some idyllic beach bar with nightcap cocktails and the sounds of the ocean – this is what Grenada nights are made of.
Evening is the perfect time to stroll St. George’s beautiful Carenage once the heat of the tropical sun gives way to cool night breezes. Often touted as the prettiest harbor-front in the Caribbean, this waterside walkway will take you around all three sides of the horseshoe-shaped bay if you have the energy and inclination. Backed by a string of historical buildings, this area is especially picturesque after-dark with its displays of different colored lights reflecting in the water and bobbing boats adding a twinkle or two out in the bay. The Christ of the Deep Monument which stands with upraised arms at the center of the Carenage pays homage to the islanders bravery and generosity when the Italian cruise liner, Bianca C, sank not far from here in the 1960s.
For the chance of injecting a little culture into your night with some laid-on entertainment make your way to the Spice Basket, less than five kilometers north of St. George’s. Serving as the island’s cultural center, this venue is home to a bar and restaurant, a cricket museum and a comparatively large and modern theater which has a regular calendar of performances.
Hosting local, regional and international artists, the Spice Basket offers dance and drama entertainment for islanders and visitors alike and is one of the best places to catch a steel pan or calypso performance
Ready to have the experience of your life in St. George’s, Grenada? Get in touch with one of our vacation planners today and find the right cruise to Grenada for you!