A mostly undeveloped tropical island Grenada is located so far south that it neighbors Venezuela. It is mountainous and lush like Jamaica, but its mountains are not as cloud kissing high, rainforests not so impassable and vendors not quite as aggressive.
You can explore Grenada in an open-top jeep; it won’t necessarily be a cushiony ride, but it will get to the heart of the island. And the most popular attractions, whether powerboat rides or swimmable waterfalls or river tubing, will be operated by locals who put their particular narrative flair on the experience. And it will be spicy. Literally. In addition to being one of the world’s largest nutmeg sources, this island also grows cinnamon, mace and other precious crops that inspire its nickname, “The Spice Island.”
You wouldn’t expect to see an ambitious artificial reef project off the shore of an obscure Southern Caribbean island, but Molinere Bay, off the western coast of Grenada, was the site of the world’s first underwater sculpture park —soon followed by the much more famous MUSA off the shore of Cancun.
For many, the Grenada marine park’s obscurity only adds to its appeal. Many life-sized human figures take their inspiration from Grenadian history and Amerindian roots. While Jason deCaires Taylor’s “Circle of Children” is probably the most-photographed sculpture, there are many others. From the mixed-media “Man on a Bike” to the rainforest-inspired “The Silent Cry,” these works tell fascinating stories and are different from other sculptures in that they’re intentionally impermanent, eroding and being colonized by the ocean.
This is the most popular stop for snorkel cruise excursions, as there’s no way to see the park except by boating out and jumping into the undersea gallery. Grenada Seafaris is the island’s most popular tour operator and provides a reliably good excursion to this site and other popular ones nearby.
Wild spice plants and exotic animals flourish in this rainforest preserve that spans a large area of Grenada’s interior, crowned by an extinct volcano. Popular hiking trails access most of the key attractions: panoramic views from the height of Mount Qua Qua; the 36-acre Grand Etang craterlake; and Seven Sisters Falls, a series of seven waterfalls that may be the most famous of the island’s many falls. Many cruise excursions include a visit to this park, especially to do the 40-minute hike to Seven Sisters and then a waterfall swim. Of the independent tour providers, Tropical Adventures is highly recommended.
Grenada’s most famous beach is easy to reach from the cruise terminal by water taxi. It’s about an even split between cruisers who choose to head to this blissful curved swathe of white sand independently for a full day of sunbathing, and those who visit as part of an excursion. Whether you spend one hour or five, you’ll most likely dip into the oh-so-calm clear water, which provides great respite from the piercing sun. Without taking away from its natural beauty, this beach is lively with water-sports shacks, beach bars and vendors.
Get in a sturdy rubber inner tube and float down a creek in the rainforest splashing and paddling, occasionally bumping legs with a stranger, and feeling completely enfolded in a mystical-magical green jungle haven. It takes quite a while to drive out to the tubing stretch of the creek, and while you can opt to take an open-top vehicle it’s best to go with a vehicle with coverage as the sun will wear you out on the journey. Suit up, cover yourself in sunscreen and don’t forget the waterproof case for your smart phone! This is lots of fun for all ages and most fitness levels. Adventure Tours Grenada picks up cruise excursioners right at the cruise dock.
For people who enjoy exploring port cities on foot or those who want to buy a few things without joining a formal tour, Market Square is conveniently located just two blocks off of the cruise terminal. Its main attraction is the spice market, where local vendors sell the island’s intoxicating harvest of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and more. Fresh fruit and vegetables, smoothies and handicrafts are also enthusiastically hawked. If you want to do further sightseeing, head up Market Hill and down Church Street to see St. George’s Anglican church, then cut over to Wharf Road just two more blocks and connect with the Carenage inlet waterfront promenade.
The question is not necessarily should you go on a waterfall trek in Grenada, it’s which waterfall (waterfalls?) will you visit? Of the island’s many waterfalls, the most famous and most tourist-visited are Concord, Annandale and Seven Sisters. The latter is actually seven waterfalls in a series, located inside Grand Etang National Park. Because you have to drive and hike to access any waterfalls, it is recommended to join an organized tour rather than visiting independently. That being said, if you don’t want the quick hike and waterfall dip that many cruise excursions offer as part of a larger package, you can hire an island tour/taxi such as Mandoo Tours. These tours are typically custom-tailored to accommodate more challenging hikes or more swim time at waterfalls.
Though you wouldn’t necessarily be able to identify the French influence in Grenada as you can on other Caribbean islands, Grenada does have some French colonial history — and its three crumbling forts are proof in stone. Fort George is the most popular to visit, because of its prominent position overlooking the city of St. George’s. When the French built it in the first part of the 18th century, they named it Fort Royal. Fort Frederick is in the best condition, having been restored and some visitor facilities added.
Although many cruise excursions visit one or more forts on an itinerary, a lot of cruisers opt to avoid the group tour experience by taking a taxi to Fort Frederick or doing the steep climb from Market Square to Fort George on foot.
You pretty much can’t leave Grenada without sniffing, tasting and buying some spices — whether you do this via a quick trip to the Spice Market in Market Square just yards from the cruise port, or opt for a lengthier experience. For cruisers who want to learn a bit about the history and heritage of spice cultivation on the island, join a tour to Dougaldston Spice Estate, which still grows and harvests a few spices using traditional methods. The busiest and biggest operation on the island is Grenada Co-Operative Nutmeg Association, a co-op processing facility that’s one of the largest nutmeg processors in the world.
While the price of entry to the co-op is merely $1, most cruisers opt to visit these facilities on a group tour because they’re a drive from the port and not necessarily worthy of a dedicated trip.
Grenada is very fond of its local rum, which tends to be inexpensive and potent. Also, purists should note, Grenada still grows its own sugar cane, unlike a few other Caribbean rums that get their sugarcane from elsewhere. So Grenadian rums are an authentic island product. River Antoine Rum Distillery is the oldest operation on the island, and it still uses traditional machinery like a water wheel to crush sugar. Clarke’s Court is the largest island producer, distilling a variety of dark, light, flavored and overproof rums. Both facilities offer tours to groups or individuals.
If you explore the world via food and drink, obviously you’ll want to get the broadest and most authentic West Indies culinary experience possible on the island. Take a taxi over to Patrick’s Local, where the extensive and exotic menu is served in a seemingly nonstop parade of small, shareable plates. Sample breadfruit salad, ginger pork, green banana salad, creole fish, stewed pumpkin and many other island delicacies. And just when you think you can’t eat another bite, out comes the nutmeg-spiced ice cream.