Laura Crawley - Freelance Writer
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Located almost at the southern end of the Caribbean island chain, "The Isle of Spice" has been a tourist destination for the Europeans for many years. This island nation has a lot to offer, featuring lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, generally pristine coral reefs, and the laid-back Caribbean lifestyle. Life moves at the beat of its own drum here. The focus is on slowing down and enjoying the present.
The nation consists of the island of Grenada, the smaller islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, and several smaller Grenadine islands in the north. While Grenada is the largest island, the surrounding smaller islands have their own unique charm, offering a way to experience Caribbean life in a simpler time. Since gaining independence in 1974, the economy has mainly been focused on tourism, agriculture, and fish exports. St. George's University is located here, where many international students attend.
Cruise ships dock in downtown St. George's regularly. If you find yourself here as a stopover, Grand Anse beach is a close taxi or local bus ride away with many amenities and easy access to dive shops on the most popular beach on the island. Grenada is an excellent starting point for those interested in sailing trips. You can hire a boat yourself or with a captain (and crew if needed) and explore the nearby islands. The Tobago Cays Marine Park in St Vincent and the Grenadines is a short multi-day sail to postcard-perfect water and a resident Green Sea Turtle population in the north.
So whether you love being on the ocean, strong rum at beach bars, or adventure into the rainforest, Grenada has something to offer almost everyone looking to escape. We've gathered some of the best tips and activities for your consideration. First, ensure you get the right flight; it's to Grenada (Gruh-NAY-da), not Granada (Gruh-NAH-da) Spain. Believe it or not, people occasionally end up on the wrong plane with an unexpected vacation (Seriously, google it, it happens more often than you'd think).
Grenada has two seasons, wet and dry. The wet season coincides with the hurricane season from May to October, but the island hasn't had a severe hurricane since Ivan in 2005 since it's so far south. Brief yet soaking rain showers are not uncommon during this time, so a small umbrella or a light rain jacket may be a good idea. While the average temperature is in the 80s year-round (25-30 degrees Celsius range), the humidity will be higher during this time.
There is much less humidity during the dry season, and the weather is more pleasant. The downside is that you may experience water shut-offs throughout the island during this time. Fortunately, these are generally only for a few hours, but it may be wise to travel with wet wipes or hand sanitizer in your bag in case you find yourself without a working faucet unexpectedly. During December, there may be rougher water for 1-2 weeks. If you are going exclusively for diving, consider other months or check in with your dive operator before booking.
Electricity is 230 V and 50 Hz frequency with G-type plugs. Check anything that needs to be plugged in before travel to ensure they will work. If not, your hotel may be able to provide a step-down converter, but call ahead to check before booking if the need arises. Tap water is generally safe to drink, although when first blasted out of the faucet, you may briefly see an off-white coloration that then dissipates (likely due to filtration or aeration). This is normal. Bottled water is readily available everywhere if you prefer. Mosquitoes are prevalent throughout the year, and Dengue Fever is endemic on the island. Make sure to have appropriate bug repellants for your trip. Also, don't forget to pack your reef-safe sunscreen!
The currency is the EC or Eastern Caribbean Dollar used by five smaller Caribbean nations, including St. Lucia and Dominica. Tipping 10-15% is standard for restaurants, taxis, and other services. The main airport, Maurice Bishop Airport, is located on the southwestern tip of the island with routine flights from New York, London, and other areas of the world, making Grenada an easily accessible paradise for your next holiday.
Grenada has a low crime rate, but you still use some precautions. Exercise common sense as you would in an unfamiliar place. Don't walk alone at night, call a taxi instead. Petty crime is the most common. A good rule of thumb is don't leave valuables unattended, especially on a busy beach. Bars on windows may be common in some areas. Don't leave anything close to a window that could be pulled through the bars. Otherwise, violent crime is relatively uncommon. Women may experience catcalls and unwanted attention but generally will not go further if ignored.
There are a few options for getting around the island. Local buses, sometimes referred to as "Reggae Buses," are seen whizzing about to the beat of Soca Music all over the island. Many are colorful with their tag lines and are individually operated. The route name and number are generally plastered across the top of the windshield. Riding the bus itself is an adventure, as many will drive quickly around sharp curves and disregard bumps in the road at speed. For those who are cautious, try to relax and trust the process. It's like riding in a tuk-tuk at rush hour in Delhi or crossing a busy street in Hanoi. Going with the flow is easier and less stressful in the end.
These minivan "buses" cost a few EC and can be picked up around the island. After handing the money man your change, slide into the next available seat. The vans have tight seating, so you may want to hire a taxi or rent a car for longer trips. If you end up in the "jump seat" at the end of the row, you will have to get on and off to let passengers out. When you are ready to get off, knock on the side of the van, and the driver will pull over for you. The main bus terminal in St George's is next to the mall and cruise ship terminal.
Hiring a taxi is easy and cost-effective for larger groups. Make sure to negotiate the cost of your ride BEFORE you take off to avoid confusion later. Many taxis can be hired to explore the island for a day or half-day. If you aren't looking for a guide, this may be the cheapest and easiest way to see the island without having to figure it out all on your own.
Car rentals are available. Make sure to rent through a reputable company such as Avis or Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and you must obtain your temporary driver's license (with a fee) from a local police station before driving. Ask the rental company ahead of time where the local station is and what time they are open, as they often have limited hours for this. If stopped without your temporary license, you will have to pay a fine.
Be aware since Grenada was a former British colony, you must drive on the left side of the road. In the capital of St George's, there are many one-way streets without proper signs, so it may be best to take a local bus into town to avoid confusion. Deep drainage ditches are standard on the sides of the road and should be avoided. When you come around blind curves, it is customary to tap your horn to alert the approaching cars.
Dining out can be a little different as well. If you are hungry, it's advisable to have a small snack to tide you over. It's not uncommon to wait 30 minutes for the menu, let alone the food. Smaller eateries may be faster, but restaurants may have slower service than most people are used to. So take the time to chat, relax, and enjoy the atmosphere. We've listed a few restaurants that stand out below.
Patrick's Local Homestyle Cooking Restaurant is a great place to enjoy family-style tapas food with local delicacies. Small with limited seating, reservations may be required. Locals routinely eat here as well.
Carib Sushi is located in Grand Anse with a short walk from the beach and mall. They have some incredible fresh sushi that stands out amongst the rest.
The Aquarium Restaurant is located on Magazine Beach and boasts delicious food and drinks for all to enjoy. You can pop in off the beach for lunch or have a quiet dinner with a moonlight walk afterward.
Savvy's at Mount Cinnamon Resort serves farm-to-table food with Indian and Caribbean flavors. This beautiful open-air restaurant has sweeping views of Grand Anse Beach.
The Calabash Hotel in Lance aux Epines has three different dining options: breakfast, a mid-range lunch menu, and fine dining for dinner. Delicious seafood and Caribbean fusion options await you from your seaside view table. Reservations are required for some meals, and hours may be limited on certain days. Check out their website for more information: The Calabash Hotel Restaurant
Umbrellas Beach Bar is a cheap and delicious establishment located centrally on Grand Anse Beach next to the Coyaba hotel. When you get a little hungry or want a frosty alcoholic beverage, throw on your beach sarong and head into the low-key eatery. Note that the menu costs are in EC: Umbrellas Beach Bar Website
There are MANY good beaches to choose from in Grenada. For our purposes, we will mention the most popular, along with a couple of hidden gems, but this is by no means a complete list.
Grand Anse Beach is the most popular (and busy), with many hotels and businesses. With 2 miles (3km) of sand to explore, you can stop at a beach bar for a drink or plunge into the water to cool off.
La Sagesse Beach is located on the Atlantic side of the island and offers a mix of volcanic and traditional beach sands. Beautiful palm trees and the sweeping beach are set in a secluded area perfect for a quiet day at the water's edge.
Overlooking Sugar Loaf and Green Islands, Levera Beach is located in the north. The beach is closed at night from May to August for sea turtle nesting. The ocean may have more current and waves here, so it may be more suitable for sunbathing or a picnic.
Magazine Beach and Morne Rouge Beach (also known as BBC beach) are two beautiful and often empty beaches south of Grande Anse. Mourne Rouge Beach offers quiet, shallow waters sheltered in a cove.
Grenada has many healthy reefs and a few shipwrecks to explore. This is a great place to learn with high visibility and calmer waters if you aren't already certified. In addition, the local dive shops all know and work closely with each other.
We have a more in-depth article on Grenada's beaches and aquatic activities you can read by clicking on the link below.
With the tagline "drinkers with a running problem," the Grenada Hash Harriers meet every Saturday to run or walk at various locations around the island. This is a great way to see parts of the island you wouldn't see otherwise. Make sure to wear clothes appropriate for the hike. Rainforest mud does not come out of shoes easily, and some hikes may even pass through water features. It's tradition for "virgin" hashers to drink beer out of their shoe after finishing their hike. Check out their website for more information.
Located in the northeast part of the island, Belmont Estate is an Agri-tourism option. This estate is a popular attraction for visitors with a few gardens, a small museum, cocoa farming, nutmeg farming, and an open-air restaurant. Learn about nutmeg and cocoa farming on a tour of the estate.
Make a stop at Grand Etang lake on your trip around the island. Monkeys are commonly seen at the viewing area, and many hiking trails can be explored in the area. One of the more popular hikes in the reserve is the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. This hike may be strenuous for those with knee problems or limited experience with hiking. The trail can be muddy and slippery at times. In the dry season, jumping from the falls may not be recommended as the water levels can get low. Annandale Falls is close by and easily accessible to the majority of visitors. Both falls allow you to swim, so don't forget your swimsuit! Other hiking trails are available throughout the reserve and across the island, but many are best with a local guide as the trail may be poorly marked.
The small northwestern fishing village of Gouyave is the country's primary fishing village. The drive is pleasant along the west coast, and if it wasn't Friday night, you might just pass through. On Friday after six, though, the streets become packed with cars and pedestrians wandering into back-lit alleys drawn in by the aroma of freshly cooked seafood and local music.
The event is popular with locals and tourists alike, with a block party-like atmosphere. Food stalls sell fish cakes, kebabs, shrimp, conch (also known as lambi), lobster, and more! Inexpensive and tasty, you'll have trouble holding yourself back from trying it all. If you want to imbibe or don't feel confident parking on narrow streets, it may be best to hire a driver for the evening so you can comfortably enjoy the whole experience. If you are driving yourself when you hit downtown, just follow the crowds.
Grenada's sister island is a short ferry ride away from St. George's, with an option to continue towards Petite Martinique. Dining and hotel options will be more limited than in Grenada, so it's best to reserve accommodation ahead of time. The coral reefs are some of the most pristine in the Grenadines, and the beaches are often empty away from the main port. Hiking and day trips through local dive companies are available. If you're looking for a quiet island with less activity to relax, Carriacou may be for you.
The island's spice market is across from the mall in downtown St George's. After you take your cheap but thrilling local bus ride to the main bus terminal, you'll be able to see the market. Souvenirs and spices are available for purchase. However, we recommend not buying anything made of coral or sea turtle shells as it is likely illegal to import back home and has a negative impact on these species.
Many businesses and some restaurants are closed on Sundays. Dive shops and other tourist operators will likely still be open, though.
ATMs are available on the island. If you need to process anything inside the bank, though, be aware they have severely limited hours, and the lines, no matter how short, will take longer than you expect.
Being so close to the equator, the sun will be more intense than most people are used to. Make sure to use reef-safe sunscreen and coverings since it's easy to get a sunburn quickly!
Business hours are relaxed at many places. They may close early, open late, or not at all without notification. Most tourism-related businesses and popular restaurants keep regular hours, though. So go with the flow, make reservations when possible, and plan ahead. Pay in cash with EC, the conversion rate is usually better, and change is generally given in EC.
Fire coral is present in many areas. It's always a good rule not to touch or step on any coral, period. It will live up to its name if you do.
Grenadian rum is STRONG… really…it's much stronger than you think. Homemade spiced rum sometimes referred to as "liquid Viagra" is especially strong. So if you're offered a taste, take a few sips first and let it settle in before having more. You'll thank yourself later.
With so much to offer, Grenada should be on your bucket list. Beach bums, foodies, and adventurers alike will love this unique destination. So consider the Caribbean for your next escape!
Laura Crawley is an avid traveler and freelance writer. Using her day job to support her travel habit, she and her partner seek out adventures across the globe. She also previously lived in Grenada for 3 years.
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