Clockwise Grenada: touring sunrise to sunset

Its quiet charms are well-suited to lingering, but Grenada is also small enough to explore in a single day, if time is of the essence. Caroline Taylor suggests a sunrise-to-sunset itinerary to introduce you to the best of the island — and ensure you want to return

Belmont Estate. Photograph Courtesy Grenada Tourism AuthorityGrand Etang’s crater lake. Photograph by PHB.CZ (Richard Semik)/Shutterstock.comSwimming in the pool at Concord Falls. Photograph courtesy Grenada Tourism AuthorityThe beach at Sauteurs, near Caribs’ Leap. Photograph by PHB.CZ (Richard Semik)/Shutterstock.comThe buildings of St George’s climb the hill above the harbour. Photograph by PHB.CZ (Richard Semik)/Shutterstock.comThe sunset view from Grand Anse. PHB.CZ (Richard Semik)/Shutterstock.com

Like many Eastern Caribbean islands, Grenada is small enough to explore on a day-trip, taking in many of the island’s most engaging sights, views, and attractions while following the hour hand of the clock, before the sun goes down. If you want maximum flexibility and are a confident driver — unfazed by bumpy roads and heart-wrenching hairpin bends, especially in the interior — and don’t mind paying an extra EC$30 for a Grenadian driver’s permit, renting a car may be for you. You can also use the colourful local bus system for legs of your journey (they operate most reliably between 7 am and 6 pm), though make sure to plan your route ahead of time. Local taxi drivers offer island tours for as little as US$60 per day (make sure to negotiate your fare in advance), or you can join an organised tour (which often includes lunch and entrance fees for attractions you may visit), which average around US$90 for the day.

As you explore, remember that Grenada’s natural ecology and man-made landscape were both severely devastated by 2004’s Hurricane Ivan. Ten years later, however, the island is a study in rebuilding and regeneration. So: get out your watch — ready, set — go!

 

8 am: St George’s

Grenadians are quick to tell you their capital is often described as the “prettiest town in the Caribbean.” You can explore on your own, or hire official guides from the cruise ship welcome centre, who will take you around to the main historical sites, forts, museums, churches, and other popular stops. There’s also the Grenada Discovery Train, a trolley that leaves the cruise ship terminal every half hour from 9 am and 3 pm. Whatever you do, make sure to head up to Fort George (built in 1705) for great views of the city and the horse-shoe harbour, and an insight into the more turbulent moments in Grenada’s history.

Each morning at the historic Market Square there are lots of fresh spices on sale, from nutmeg to cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger, plus lots of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. If you feel parched, enjoy some coconut water fresh from the nut from one of the vendors. And remember: if you buy a spice necklace, don’t wear it around your neck! Just hang it in your kitchen (out of the plastic bag, of course).

The intimate National Museum has a few historical artefacts on display, while the Christ of the Deep Monument looks over the Carenage and honours brave Grenadians who saved the lives of passengers of an Italian cruise liner that caught fire and sank in the harbour.

For architecture buffs, some of the oldest churches in the capital include the Roman Catholic Cathedral (1884), Anglican Church (1925), and Presbyterian Church (1831) — not all of which fared well after Hurricane Ivan.

Around the south of the capital are a number of attractions, including Fort Matthew and Frederick, the Botanical Gardens, Bay Gardens, Windsor Castle, and more than one rum distillery.

 

10ish: Concord Falls

Head north out of St George’s and enjoy the restorative views of the Caribbean Sea along the west coast. You’ll pass many of Grenada’s beautiful beaches, like Flamingo Bay, Dragon Bay, and Moliniere Bay with its Underwater Sculpture Park, a popular spot for diving and snorkelling trips.

Near Concord, a two-kilometre drive along a river fringed with trees bearing cocoa, nutmeg, and bananas takes you to the beautiful forty-foot Concord Falls. There are lots of shops for souvenirs around, and down a few flights of steps carved into the hillside you’ll find a refreshing waterfall plunge pool that’s perfect for a dip or a swim.

 

11ish: Caribs’ Leap

Continuing along the Caribbean coast, you’ll pass a number of places of interest further inland through the mountains and rainforest — Palmiste Lake, Pleasant Estate, and Tufton Hall waterfall, as well as the sulphur and hot springs around Mt St Catherine.

At almost the northernmost tip of the island, near Sauteurs, is Caribs’ Leap. Quite apart from its stunning views of the nearby Grenadine islands, the monument serves as a sobering reminder of Grenada’s French colonial legacy. Here, Grenada’s last fighting first peoples (the Caribs or Kalingos), rather than face the prospect of surrendering to the French, leaped over the sheer hunded-foot cliff to their deaths in 1651.

 

12ish: lunch at the Belmont Estate

Our round-the-island tour turns south now, along the east (Atlantic) coast. Closer to the coast are Levera National Park and Levera Pond (plus more hot springs!), as well as Lake Antoine. Turning inland, you’ll come to a lunch stop that should satiate any palette: the charming four-hundred–acre Belmont Estate. Here — after being greeted by singing, dancing members of staff — not only can you enjoy a delicious three-course creole buffet with breezy views of the surrounding woodlands, but you can then work off your decadent chocolate cake dessert by walking around the organic cocoa estate (which includes a cocoa bean fermentary), or let your meal digest while taking in a film about the cocoa-making process. Local organic dark chocolate and souvenirs are on sale from on-site shops.

 

2ish: River Antoine Rum Distillery

A little further south, and heading back to the Atlantic coast, is one of Grenada’s best-kept historical sites: a rum distillery founded in 1785 on a sprawling rustic estate with wood-burning ovens and the oldest working waterwheel in the western hemisphere. The result is a caustic white rum too high in alcohol content (seventy-five per cent) to export. Instead the distillery caters to a well-watered local market — also producing a slightly weaker version that tourists can take away with them on the plane!

 

3ish: Grand Etang National Park and Crater Lake

Heading south through La Poterie and Tivoli, past the now abandoned Pearls Airport and Grenville, Grenada’s second largest town, you climb upwards and southwest to the mountainous, rain-forested centre of the island. The jewel in the crown is the thirty-six–acre Grand Etang crater lake in the Grand Etang Forest Reserve, the inundated crater of an extinct volcano. There are many well-mapped hiking trails in the reserve, catering to both beginner and advanced hikers, lasting anything from fifteen minutes to several hours, and including popular hikes to the beautiful Annandale and Seven Sisters waterfalls. Perched 1,900 feet above sea level, a visitor centre provides guides and useful information, maps, and a small display on the area’s abundant flora and fauna. A snack bar and souvenir shop are on site, while the stunning crater lake is a short, easy walk away. Make sure to have your camera handy!

 

6ish: sunset drinks on Grand Anse

There’s no better way to reward yourself for a day well spent than to enjoy some sunset drinks at one of the many watering holes along Grenada’s renowned Grand Anse Beach. Perhaps a cocktail with a bit of local rum too strong for export?

 

Time permitting, don’t miss:

• A snorkelling or diving trip to the Underwater Sculpture Museum, an art installation of several dozen large sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor and Troy Lewis which opened in 2006, and which has helped the offshore reef recover from the devastating 2004 and 2005 hurricanes.

• Snorkelling trips to the reefs at Flamingo and Dragon Bays.

• A day-trip to Carriacou and Petite Martinique — you can charter a boat, join a tour, or go exploring yourself by taking the ferry that leaves each morning from St George’s.

• Take a restorative dip in one of Grenada’s many sulphur and hot springs

• Visit the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station, which takes you behind the process of sorting, grading, and packaging nutmeg and mace, the first step to producing a range of products from seasoning to syrups, massage oils, candles, nail varnish, and anti-inflammatory rubs and sprays.

• Indulge your sweet tooth at the Grenada Chocolate Company, which makes fine, organic dark chocolate from local cocoa farms.

• Visit the 450-acre Levera National Park, with its picture-perfect beach (where turtles nest from May to September) and offshore reef, the beautiful lagoon (a haven for bird-watchers), and several hiking trails.

• Buy some fine, aged local rum at the Westerhall Estate.

• Get a natural massage from the powerful sevebty-foot twin falls at Mt Carmel.

• Go birdwatching at La Sagesse Nature Centre or the Lake Antoine National Park, Grenada’s other (shallower) crater lake.

• Take a whale- and dolphin-watching boat tour with First Impressions, especially during the months of January through April, when operators boast a ninety-seven per cent chance of sightings.

 

When in Grenada, Caroline saw the island with Sunsation Tours (in business since 1990), who offer island tours, shore excursions for cruise ships, off-island trips, and can put you in touch with other providers for day tours to the Grenadines, sailing, snorkelling, golf, diving, adventure jeeping, and more.