Beaches, palm trees and sun are some of the things you expect from the Caribbean, right? As well as scores of smoochy honeymooners . And while there is plenty of that on the island of Grenada, Yahoo Style wanted to explore a different side to Caribbean holidays.
For those who get restless with all-day sun-worship and want something a bit more challenging than matronly laps of the resort pool, Grenada has some serious rainforest action, splendid SOCA nights and loads of local culture to explore.
The island is a 30-minute flight from St Lucia and is viewed a bit like it’s little sister. But Grenadians are fiercely proud of their country and are particularly keen for visitors to know it’s just as great, if not better than, it’s more destination neighbours like Barbados and Trinidad and Tabago.
We arrived mid June, the start of the rainy season. Travelling to the Caribbean is a lot cheaper off season – a LOT – so it’s worth doing for that reason. However you must be prepared for short but intense downpours at any time. They come out of nowhere and can take your breath away they’re so heavy. But the rain is warm – ‘liquid sunshine’ as the locals call it – and keeps the island lush and green.
We stayed there for a week and got to explore the island from top to bottom. From astonishing luxury to the heat and haggle of the local market, we did it all. So here are Yahoo Style’s top tips to getting the most out of the Spice Isle.
Places to stay:
1. True Blue Bay resort
It’s right next to Dodgy Dock and is a colourful, rambling beaut of a place with a mini man made beach and decking for dancing that looks right on to the ocean. A lovely first base and very private so perfect for couples. They also have themed nights with some fantastic local singers.
Prices start at £99 per night for two people sharing.
2. Mount Cinnamon
This place is a series of villas and suites carved into the hillside above Grand Anse beach. We stayed in a two bedroom split level villa, all white-washed, airy and fresh. The pool is fabulous, small but Art Deco style and there’s a great beach club too that serves fresh local produce. Try the blackened ahi-ahi and the knock your socks off rum punch. The service is exemplary: attentive without being obsequious and the manager Mark is really present and on hand for any queries.
Prices start at £212 per night for two people sharing.
This place is a luxury delight, and definitely one for honeymooners. Set in an expanse of lush grounds with its own private beach and water sports centre, it’s gloriously luxe. We stayed in a Pool Suite which came with – you guessed it – our own private pool and freestanding bath tub so you can have a soak outside as the sun sets.
The bathroom was the size of a small garage and was was well stocked with Elemis products and one of the most enjoyable little extras was that breakfast was made to order and served on your terrace. A fabulously serene pool area and top notch restaurant made it one of the trip’s highlights – which included an impromptu sailing lesson with the lovely resort manager, Zach.
Prices start at £372 per night for a Junior Suite.
Places to eat
With live music and a mighty barbeque this beach joint is ideal for long boozy Sunday lunches. Enormous prawns, BBQ chicken and heaping fresh salads was the order of the day, washed down with lots of ice cold rose. In between courses, the sea is yards away for a quick dip.
Patrick’s Local Homestyle Restaurant
Cheap and cheerful, this place is run by Karen, a well-known local, and her family. The menu is very dependant on availability so don’t be too disappointed if not everything is there. However, you get up to 20 tapas dishes of local, fresh fare and it’s all scrummy. Specialities include calaloo soup and papaya in cheese sauce. The venue is a shack near the road so it’s not fancy, but it’s fun and friendly and definitely worth a visit.
Set right on the beach this authentic eatery was actually our first restaurant experience in Grenada. Mahi mahi is always a good choice in the Caribbean and it was served with whipped sweet potatoes and a huge healthy salad. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun set with cocktails and the service is friendly and laid-back.
Things to do
This experience was magical. We had to drive high up into the rain forests where it’s darker, muggier and really tropical. Creeping, waxy plants hang low and it’s a bit like being in a scene in the Jungle Book where Baloo the bear floats along the river with Mowgli on his belly. Just before we grabbed our giant rubber rings it started raining heavily. But it was warm and added to the fun. We scudded down about a mile of fairly fast flowing river before finishing in a deep lagoon where if you’re brave (and I was) you can plunge off a ledge into the water. Check us out below.
A post shared by Hayley Coyle (@haylzee) on Jun 11, 2017 at 9:49am PDT
Grenada has some of the best dives and wreckage sites in the Caribbean and is also home to a fantastic underwater sculpture park. We went with the True Blue Resort’s Aquanaut group for an afternoon of floating round a reef looking for Nemos. Aquanaut’s cater for more experienced divers too but we were beginners to just flippers and a snorkel was all we needed. The underwater sculptures are amazing as well as plenty of brightly coloured fish and creepy sea eggs.
Our day at the Rumboat Retreat was certainly one of the high points – and not just because it was boozified. Rum at 10am? Yes please! The retreat is located near the fishing village of Gouyave (though Grenada is a small island so not much is more than a 45 minute drive away) and is run by rum expert Lisette. There’s nothing this lady doesn’t know about rum. After eight samples – that was both informative and er, strong – we learned how to make our own cocktails and had a lovely private lunch on the balcony. Rumboat is also a boutique B&B and Lisette and her staff are on hand for rum based excursions. A nice touch is also the venue’s honesty bar. With hundreds of types of rum to sample, guests are just asked to note down what they taste and pay accordingly.
Grenada is known all over the world for its chocolate and cocoa beans. Grenadians are obsessed with it. And it’s not mass produced, milky Cadburys nonsense either – this stuff is heady, exotic and for real choc lovers. One of the best places to experience how chocolate is made from scratch is the Belmont Estate, in St Patrick.
Dating back to the 17th century it’s one of Grenada’s biggest tourist draws and has a restaurant and various tours. We opted for the chocolate one. A sparky tour guide took us all over and we tasted cocoa plants from the tree (which taste strangely like Opal Fruits), saw how the cocoa was dried and finally sampled the end result. Yum.
A post shared by Hayley Coyle (@haylzee) on Jun 15, 2017 at 5:42am PDT
Since Grenada is home to a large medical school, St. George’s University, there are plenty of students about. Many Americans enrol at SGU so there can also be quite a marked frat vibe. Micro brewery, the West Indies Beer Company, is a popular spot where locals get to try British craft ales. Nearby is the far rowdier Junction bar with SOCA music that went on till all hours, tourists and locals dancing side by side. Bananas night club is also a popular after hours hang out.
Any other business…
During the rainy season and its approach, they are rife, especially after a downfall. If they like you (they liked me a lot), it can get quite hellish. Always sleep with windows and doors shut and when in higher areas, like for hiking, wear long sleeves and cover your legs, feet and ankles. Most hotels provide natural repellant sprays but if you are especially susceptible, a stronger chemical based spray may be required. Pure aloe vera from the aloe plant is a great after care treatment, and can be found locally.
The Caribbean as a rule is not cheap. It’s best to pay for things in US dollars and always check if food and drinks are being charged in Eastern Caribbean Dollars or otherwise. Because a lot of ‘home comforts’ are imported, the prices can be high. However if you eat locally and even cook your own food, it’s much cheaper. Expect a bottle of wine to be about £30 and a meal for two about £100.