A tropical island is the perfect place to enjoy everything that the beach has to offer: swim and splash in the waves, soak up the sun on silky, white sand and relax as you listen to the palm trees blowing in the breeze.
But if you want your tropical vacation to be more than just time on the beach, the Caribbean island of Grenada, located just 160 kilometres north of Venezuela is the perfect destination. On Grenada, you can cater to your inner adventure-lover with world-class water activities, outdoor fun, and even some delicious food adventures, all packed into 34 by 19 kilometres of island paradise.
Explore the Rainforests
Step one to adventure-time–get outside and explore. The result of volcanic eruptions, this tiny island is essentially a mountainous rainforest, filled with lush tropical vegetation like palm trees and orchids. There are many good hiking trails, some, like Morne Gazo, as close as 15 minutes from St. George’s (the island’s capital, where most hotels and beaches are located). Trail guide brochures are available, but even better, hire a local guide who can fill you in on the local folklore as they teach you about the flora and fauna.
Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve, a 1,000 hectare park and home to a 12-hectare lake, is the most popular place for hiking, with marked trails from half hour to several hours long. High up in the mountains of the island’s interior, temperatures stay cool up here, and it’s the perfect spot to see the island’s wildlife, like armadillo, opossum, and even Mona monkeys (watch out, they’ll steal your lunch).
Grenada is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with at least 150 species, like the flycatcher, egrets and the endangered Grenada dove, calling the island home or using it as a stopover. And that lovely, cacophony of chirping at sunset? It’s not the birds, that’s little tree frogs.
Play in the Water
When on an island, do as the islanders do—spend time in the water. Are you a diver? There are 30-plus dive sites close by and the surrounding ocean maintains a year-round temperature between 26-28 degrees, with good visibility making it likely to see whales, dolphins, manta rays and sea turtles.
Known as the wreck-diving capital of the Caribbean, Grenada has several shipwrecks within close proximity, including Bianca C, a 600-foot luxury liner that was sunk by an explosion in 1961. In 2018, two old ships were purposely sunk to become artificial reefs. If snorkeling is more your style, you won’t be disappointed with the colourful reef fish, corals and marine creatures at easy-to-access spots.
A must-see whether diving or snorkelling, is the Underwater Sculpture Park, the world’s first specially-designed artificial reef, composed of over 100 pieces of art draped with coral (to support marine life), built to help the ocean ecosystem regenerate after being damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Dune Buggy Time
To rev things up a bit, book a dune buggy tour. (I did the three-hour Waterfall and Forest Adventure Tour with Sun Hunters). Gear up with helmets and hop in a two-seater buggy which will have you bouncing along the mud trails of Mount Hartman Estate, a bird sanctuary and nature reserve, through tiny villages and the streets of St. George’s, and up to lookouts where you can view the jumble of colourful houses perched on the side of the mountain and the crystal-blue ocean far below.
Wear your bathing suit–you’ll end up at Annandale Falls, one of 15 on the island, where a short walk takes you past local fruit trees and lush green ferns to a 30-foot cascading waterfall. Chances are good you’ll see a cliff jumper climb up to the top and make the jump into the pool below—have some cash handy, this is how they make a living.
To really get the adrenaline going, sign-up with Island Routes for an Adventure River Tubing activity on the Balthazar River (known as Grenada’s Great River). Under the attentive eye of several guides, you’ll spin and swirl in the currents around rocks and over rapids, past river banks overflowing with lush tropical vegetation. At the end, you’ll get an opportunity to swim in the warm natural pools. Tip: Take your go-pro—things move fast.
There are so many food adventures on Grenada, that you will want to dedicate a full day (or two, or three) to checking them out. Grenada is referred to as the Spice Island for good reason (spices were actually the reason it was colonized in the 17C, and was subsequently fought over by the French and the British)—it’s a leading producer of spices like cinnamon, cloves and its most famous—nutmeg.
Start with a visit to St. George’s bustling street market, (aim for Saturday morning—it’s at its most vibrant), where vendors will vie to sell you fresh produce, spices and souvenirs.
The island is famous for its chocolate as well (there’s even an annual chocolate festival in May, with activities like chocolate yoga classes, yummy). Stop at the House of Chocolate, a small café, museum and boutique, where you can learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about chocolate. The best part? You get to sample chocolate. At the chocolateria café you can also pull up one of the cute stools shaped like a chocolate cookie and indulge in goodies like cocoa-infused cheesecakes, brownies and house-made ice creams (need I say more?.
At St. Patrick’s, an hour’s drive from St. George’s, check out Belmont Estate, the island’s oldest working cocoa plantation, dating back to the late 1600s. Here you can learn the history of the cocoa bean and stroll the tropical gardens filled with orchids. And, you guessed it, you’ll be sampling more chocolate. On the way to Belmont, stop in for a tour at Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Co-op, a large warehouse filled with burlap bags of nutmeg, rows of drying racks, and wooden machines, where workers manually sort, grade and package the tasty spice.
After all that adventure, it’s likely time to relax on the white silky sand of Grand Anse Beach, recently voted one of the best beaches in the world by Conde Nast.
The author travelled to Grenada in July of 2019. She was a guest of Grenada Tourism Authority, however, they did not review or edit this article before publication.
When you go:
Air Canada has direct flights from Toronto to Grenada.
For more info on the island go to Pure Grenada.
For luxury accommodation options, check out Spice Island Beach Resort and Sandals Grenada (when you stay at Sandals, diving, if you have your PADI certification, is included in the cost).
For family-friendly budget options, try Mount Cinnamon Grenada Hotel or Blue Horizons Garden Resort.