It happens every time I leave New York for it– that endless, sparkling Caribbean ocean that reveals itself and pushes out any trace of a blistering winter. On this particular day, the journey led me to the tri-island nation of Grenada in the southeastern part of the Caribbean. Nestled near Trinidad and Venezuela, the 120-square mile country is affectionately known as Spice Island, due its abundance of well, spices. The island is the largest producer of mace in the world and the second largest producer of nutmeg. You can see this in the bustling marketplace of St. George, where buying Baron’s hot sauce and bags of turmeric, clove, ginger and sweet sugar apples is always a satisfying visit.
Though I have traveled to most Caribbean islands, Grenada has continued to stay with me. There is a seamless synchronicity between the prototypical beach vacation and an authentic local vibe that has yet to be touched by most Americans. I felt as though I could get lost on a hillside or in a soca tune at a nameless bar. The vibes were everywhere, true and authentic. And now, with JetBlue’s Mint premium service offering nonstop flights from JFK, there is even more reason to welcome the sun, and a pure Grenadian experience.
Here are all the reasons I fell in love with my recent trip, and why I believe any traveler will, too.
Climbing Grenada’s winding roads to the top of a mountain, I was astounded by the views below: rolling hills, cotton candy colored homes and the ocean in the distance. For nature lovers, the island offers a number of options, including river tubing, kayaking, and hiking at Seven Sisters Falls.
Love the ocean? Grenada has 49 white sand beaches and nine black sand beaches. The island also has 40 diving sites, and its sister island Carriacou, has 20. Here you can also find the world’s first underwater sculpture park, where visitors can view the art structures from a glass bottom boat or by snorkeling. Sailing is also very popular in the tri-island, where 5 annual boat races meet much fanfare.
LOCALLY GROWN BUSINESS
Located in the heart of St. George is a hotel that is sure to leave a lasting mark on anyone who visits. Welcome to Spice Island Beach Resort.
Of the 118 AAA five diamond hotels worldwide, Spice Island is the only independently owned boutique with a AAA rating and its proprietor being a person of color. Sir Royston Hopkin, who has received numerous awards as a hotelier, owns the resort. Queen Elizabeth II, officially knighted him for his contributions to Grenadian tourism at Buckingham Palace in 2005.
Alongside his wife Lady Betty Hopkin, children, and staff, Spice Island provides one of the most fabulous Caribbean hotel experiences I have ever had. Here, luxury is obvious but not overstated. Accommodations provide gorgeous beach views and a hammock to rest. Cuisine, headed by Chef Jesson Church, offers the best of local flavor- from callaloo soup to roti- in an al fresco setting to the sounds of live music.
The flavors of Grenada are abundant– from its production of spices to the booming sounds of soca and jab jab behavior during Carnival. The island’s national dish, called “oil down,” is a hearty stew made of local vegetables such as dasheen and callaloo, salted meat and spices. There is perhaps no better dish that also represents the true melting pot of Grenada’s people.
For a memorable meal, do not miss BB’s Crabback. Though a tourist recommended restaurant always causes me to hesitate, it was one of the best meals of fresh fish, rice and peas (and rum punch) that I’ve enjoyed in awhile. The waterfront view of the harbor was not too shabby either.
During my visit I kept asking myself, “Why didn’t I come here sooner?”
That is part of the beauty of travel– you can always be pleasantly surprised. And with Grenada, you are sure to feel the same sentiment, just as soon as you step off the plane.
FOR MORE INFO ON THE ISLAND: Visit www.puregrenada.com