Grenada is an appealing destination for Caribbean cruise passengers. Once best known as the site of a U.S. troop intervention under President Reagan, this lush island paradise is laden with white sand beaches, mountainous rainforests, and spice plantations.
Known as the "Isle of Spice," Grenada produces crops including nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, bananas, coconut, and cacao for cocoa production. Hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada in 2004, destroying 85 percent of the island's nutmeg trees and 90 percent of the buildings. While nutmeg production is still recovering, the island's buildings and businesses are back and generally better than ever.
Cruise passengers will be amazed by all there is to do on Grenada. Here are ten of my favorites:
Get Out on the Water. Grenada is an excellent spot for water sports. Trips to Moliniere Point's underwater sculpture park are popular with snorkelers, divers, and those wishing to see the site via glass bottomed boat. Created by Jason de Caires Taylor, Moliniere Point contains 65 striking sculptures and acts as an artificial reef. Wreck diving is also excellent in Grenada's waters. The Bianca C, a 600-foot Italian cruise ship dubbed the "Titanic of the Caribbean," is a good choice for experienced wreck divers. Dive operators can be found along Grand Anse Beach, offering snorkeling and dive trips, gear rentals, as well as kayaking, parasailing, windsurfing, and other water sports. Catamaran sails to Morne Rouge Beach are another fun way to spend the day. Half-day boat charters provide excellent game fishing for marlin, sailfish, tuna and more.
Learn About Spices. Visitors to Market Square in Grenada's bustling capital of St. George's will find vendors selling spices. Those who wish to learn more can visit Dougaldston Spice Estate to see how many of Grenada's spices and agricultural products (cacao, nutmeg, bay leaves, mace, allspice, cloves, ginger, pimento and more) are grown and processed. Plastic bags with fresh spices are available for sale here. The Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station, one of the largest nutmeg and mace processors on the island, also is available for touring nearby.
Relax at a Resort. Spend your day enjoying all that Grenada's best resorts have to offer. Adults and teens ages 16 and older will have a fabulous time at LaSource, an extraordinary all-inclusive resort located on secluded Pink Gin Beach. This rejuvenating property features exceptional dining, a wide variety of activities and fitness classes, and an outstanding spa. Day passes ($115 US per person) are valid from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and include food, drinks, activities, classes, water sports and towels. Spa treatments are extra, subject to availability, and must be booked in advance through the resort. For more information, visit www.theamazingholiday.com. Those with younger children or who wish to enjoy the excitement of Grand Anse Beach should head to Mount Cinnamon Resort, a picturesque property with a pool, beach cabana, and lush gardens located along the white sands of Grand Anse Beach. Day passes are $80 US per adult and $40 US for children under 16. Passes include transfers from the cruise terminal, lunch, all drinks by the glass except premium brands, the use of the pool and beach cabana, and non-motorized water sports. Day passes should be booked in advance. For more information, visit www.mountcinnamongrenadahotel.com
Hike Grand Etang National Park. Grenada's green, mountainous interior is definitely worth exploring. Grand Etang National Park has many excellent hiking trails that pass picture-perfect waterfalls and Grand Etang Lake. Trails can often be muddy, so come prepared with appropriate footwear, bottled water, and a swim suit in case you'd like to take a dip.
Feed Your Sweet Tooth. Grenada's cacao is some of the best on the planet. One of the Caribbean's finest agricultural tours can be found at Belmont Estate, about an hour's drive from St. George's. At this authentic 17th century plantation, guests can see raw cacao pods brought in for cocoa production, tour the cocoa processing facilities, visit the gardens and heritage museum, and enjoy lunch featuring traditional Grenadian cuisine. Cocoa from Belmont Estate is used in The Grenada Chocolate Company's organic dark chocolate bars with cocoa levels up to 82 percent. The property also houses the Grenada Arts and Craft Co-operative, a produce stall, a gift shop, a goat dairy farm, and an animal petting farm.
See the Monkeys. Some lucky cruise passengers are fortunate enough to encounter a Mona monkey or two hanging out at the entrance to Grand Etang National Park. These monkeys live in Grenada's lush tropical rainforests and have very distinctive markings. Locals say it's best to visit the area first thing in the morning if you're set on seeing monkeys.
Swim at a Waterfall. Grenada has many waterfalls - some are easier to access than others. Located a short drive outside of St. George's, picturesque Annandale Falls is one of the easiest to get to via a good path. The falls cascade approximately 49 feet down to a lovely pool perfect for swimming. Those willing to hike a bit longer (about 45-minutes along potentially muddy trails) should visit beautiful Seven Sisters Falls located in the rainforest. Once there, you can swim in the large pools at the foot of the falls. Lovely Honeymoon Falls is also located nearby.
Check Out St. George's. Historic St. George's was built by the French in 1650 and went on to become the capital of the British Windward Islands in the late 1800's. Walking through this colorful city, one can easily see the French, British, and West Indian influences. Don't miss the vendors selling produce and spices in Market Square, visiting Fort George or Fort Frederick, touring the 18th-century pink Anglican Church, and strolling along the waterfront of the Carenage on the city's inner harbor. The Grenada National Museum has some interesting exhibits as well.
Tour a Rum Distillery. Those interested in rum and history can learn about both at the River Antoine Rum Distillery located in St. Andrew Parish. This privately owned distillery still utilizes the traditional methods of rum preparation used in the late 1700's. The distillery operates the oldest working water mill in the Caribbean to power rollers which squeeze the juice out of the sugar cane. Several strengths of Rivers Rum are produced and sold in Grenada. The strongest is exceedingly potent - try it if you're brave.