Elevated luxury mixed with old-style Caribbean hospitality is the icing on the spice cake…
By Doug Wallace
It would appear that we are the first people to swim in the infinity pool. Ever. Talk about first come! And it is apparently the longest pool in the Caribbean, at 100 metres. At least four staff members of the new Silversands Grenada are hovering, smiling, waiting for us to want something. We get used to the pampering real fast, not to mention the hotel’s minimalist design, the exquisite Spanish furniture, the blond wood, the electronic drapery, the rosé, that new-car smell.
It turns out that this is the tip of the luxury iceberg here in the southern Caribbean.The tri-island paradise of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique,at the bottom of the Grenadines, is gearing up to lure loads of high-enders to the white sand, azure shorelines, hidden waterfalls, unspoiled nature and, now, increasingly more barefoot-chic situations for you to discover. Grand Anse Beach, just south of Grenada’s main city of St. George’s, is soon to be anchored with a new Kimpton resort competing for the luxury tourist dollars with both the Silversands and the tony Spice Island Beach Resort.
All this newness is nice, but the already-established posh parts of this formerly British island also deliver. One afternoon, we dig our heels into the sand at the private Laluna Beach Hotel for a few hours and sip our Rumtinis, pretending we’re in a TV commercial. This is before massages at the resort’s Balinese Spa, half hidden in the trees beyond an inviting open-air chill-out pavilion. The crowd here is quiet, everybody Zen, daydreaming being the order of the day.
One garlic shrimp at a time
We are dreaming of supper, of course: the food scene in Grenada is relatively robust for an island of just 110,000. We experience it first at the family-run Calabash Hotel, the island’s only Relais & Château-rated property on the southern Lance Aux Epines Beach. It only takes a few bites for us to be almost overwhelmed on the vine-covered terrace of the resort’s destination restaurant, Rhodes, its kitchen minded by British celebrity chef Gary Rhodes. We sink into our chairs and just let the food journey wash us away for a couple of hours.
Winning over tourist hearts – and, thereby, dollars – through their stomachs is a win-win. Back at Laluna, the Italian-Caribbean fare sticks to our ribs, the menu’s homemade ravioli, pastas and risotto propped up by deliciousness like lionfish smothered in butter and grilled barracuda with pineapple salsa. We drift into dessert watching the bats dive-bombing the pool to take sips.
Over at the bustling Coconut Beach Restaurant in St.George’s, dishes like curried conch and ginger lobster get the full French Creole treatment, right down to the pumpkin soup. And at Aquarium on Magazine Beach, a whirl of waiters swirl around with tray after tray of gorgeous seafood: roasted black cod, curried conch or “lambie,” tuna tartare, tandoori shrimp. We are in heaven, wafted out of our reverie by a steel drum band. How they manage to play so quietly I’ll never know.
The main reason Grenada’s menus hit the spot is thanks to the plentiful spices for which the island is well-known: nutmeg and mace, turmeric, cinnamon, pimento, bay leaves, cloves and ginger. As well, the tree-to-bar chocolate is beyond good. All of the above made it into my luggage (you can’t go wrong with treats for everyone that pack flat). We actually stop into the House of Chocolate twice, and hope they don’t remember us the second time (they do, and they don’t care). Chocolate manufacturing cropped up here a mere 20 years ago, and there are a few producers to visit throughout the island: a pleasant afternoon of taste-and-tour fun.
Haul your ass out of the lounge chair
It’s not all filling our face with ceviche and chocolate, though. Getting out into the natural environment of Grenada is mandatory. You don’t go to the Caribbean without indulging in the blue waters in some way – boating, fishing, snorkelling, sand castles.
I have about 150 dives under my belt, but big bottom-time spent with Aquanauts Scuba completely takes the cake with a swim through the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park. This protected area just off the coastline features more than 65 concrete works (the bulk of them by British sculptor James deCaires Taylor) set around natural gullies, creating an artificial reef that teems with marine life. The haunting “Vicissitudes” is the most noted work: 26 lifesize children standing in a circle facing the current and holding hands, symbolizing the cycle of life. “The Lost Correspondent” consists of a man sitting at his desk and typewriter, like a relic from a simpler time.At five to 12 metres below the surface of the water, the sculptures are also a hit with snorkellers and the glass-bottom boat tours.
Grenada has more than 40 reefs and wrecks to explore, including the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean, the 600-foot-long Bianca C, which sank in the St. George’s harbour in 1961. She’s too deep for me, though; I stick with the shallower stuff, logging two octopuses, some really big parrot fish and groupers, a few crabs, a barracuda, and a ray that I think blinked at me.
Back on land, we push the rain clouds out of our minds one morning and press up forest-covered Mount Qua Qua in the Grand Etang National Park with a hiking guide from Solimar International. After many ups and downs – including some fairly steep bits made more of a challenge by the mud – we reach the summit at 565 metres, and pause to drink in the view of Grand Etang Lake below. This crater lake in an extinct volcano becomes our selfie of the day. Though the park is filled with white-rumped mona monkeys, they are taking this rainy day off. We do have company, though – and he’s blond, fit, and sporty. A hiking guide from one of the cruise ships is hot on our heels, checking to see if the Qua Qua trail is a good match for his passengers. We share our snacks with him, and he unwittingly reciprocates by shaking out his ponytail. Later, over beers at the park entrance, we nickname him Thor.
When you go
Grenada is accepting of LGBTQ visitors, but we find that many residents struggle with the closet and the stigma. Quite a number of people thought my partner and I were just friends. Like many Caribbean islands, attitudes here are shifting. An organization called GrenCHAP works to empower marginalized populations, including the LGBTQ community, through human-rights advocacy and access to information. Find more details at GrenCHAP.org.
The best time to visit Grenada is the high-season months (from January to April), when the weather is driest and the 30-degree days are cooled by trade winds. May and June generally offer more affordable rates. Visit GrenadaGrenadines.com.
DOUG WALLACE is the editor and publisher of travel resource TravelRight.Today.