The Spice Isle of Grenada

Patricia and Dennis Cleveland-Peck find plenty to do and some excellent places to stay

Westhall Rum Distillery

Westhall Rum Distillery

Sorting nutmegs at Gouyave Pool

Sorting nutmegs at Gouyave Pool

Local Artist Doliver Morain

Local Artist Doliver Morain

On Carriacou

On Carriacou

Spice Island Beach Resort (c) Michael DeHoog Photography

Spice Island Beach Resort (c) Michael DeHoog Photography

Garden at the Calabash

Garden at the Calabash

Patricia and Dennis's room at the Calabash

Patricia and Dennis's room at the Calabash

View from Patricia and Dennis's balcony at the Petite Anse

View from Patricia and Dennis's balcony at the Petite Anse

Petite Anse Interior

Petite Anse Interior

View at the Flamboyant

View at the Flamboyant

Room at the Flamboyant

Room at the Flamboyant

Grenada is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean and at only 34 by 18 kms, it is small enough to explore thoroughly. The people are friendly and the weather warm all year round. The turquoise sea with its miles of sandy palm-fringed beaches and hidden bays contrasts with the central area of mountainous rainforest, while the bustling capital St Georges, with its lively market has been described as the prettiest town in the Caribbean.

The island is incredibly fertile and productive so there are old rum distilleries, nutmeg pools and plantations producing cocoa and spices to visit, as well as beautiful private gardens stuffed with exotic plants.

The surrounding blue waters offer excellent sailing, scuba diving and snorkelling – there is even an intriguing underwater sculpture gallery. The central mountainous Grand Étang National Park is made up of protected rainforest which is crossed by numerous hiking trials. There are sparkling waterfalls and places to indulge in the latest craze, river tubing. There is a very good bus service which will take you all over the island – and for an extra dollar or two the driver will divert to your exact destination, something you won’t find in European countries.

The two neighbouring islands which make up the tri-island nation, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, both worth visiting to experience a definite change in atmosphere, are accessible for day trips by ferry or small plane.

Spice Island Beach Resort

A range of accommodation at all prices is available throughout Grenada but the most luxurious hotel is the 5* Spice Island Beach Resort on Grand Anse Beach. It comprises 64 suites set in 8 acres of tropical gardens. As our taxi arrived, not one but four impeccably-dressed members of staff surged forward to meet us. Our luggage was whipped away and a drink of the house speciality, a champagne cocktail made with the juice of a local fruit, sorrel (not the bitter British sort but the scarlet calyx of the hibiscus), was placed in our hands – and all before check-in.

We were then shown to our room – in fact a well-equipped suite with a private plunge pool. We unpacked a few things and then went out to explore. The hotel has all the facilities you would expect from such an establishment, a luxury spa and fitness centre, (at which we later enjoyed a blissful ‘couples massage’) water sports, floodlit tennis courts – and more. There is for example, a children’s activity centre, the Nutmeg Pod, always a boon for parents.

Afternoon tea is served in the bandstand with a wonderful view out over the sea. From here just a few steps took us to the palm-fringed beach. A three mast schooner lay out to sea and a few people strolled along the shoreline as the sun set. Then as the light continued to fade came the sound which we always associate with the Caribbean evening– the incredibly loud chirping of the tree frogs.

The choice at breakfast was good with plenty of delicious fresh local fruit juices including guava, sour sop and mango. Dennis had Eggs Benedict and Patricia a ‘Spanish’ omelette with bacon. The breakfast room overlooked the beach and we wondered whether the thin wires stretched over the open sides were there in preparation for climbing plants. We soon learned otherwise when, quite undeterred, cheeky black birds known as grackles, easily negotiated their way in and sat on the backs of chairs waiting for the tables to become vacant, upon which they would pounce and forage on left-overs – especially enjoying the butter!

One of the most delightful things about Spice Island Beach Resort is the courteous and friendly service. We were greeted by name by every employee we came across, something which certainly did surpass our expectations.

Calabash

Next, we experienced an equally memorable hotel, the 5* Calabash. This is an elegant establishment, a Caribbean classic with a much more discreet atmosphere. It had for years been the haunt of members of the British aristocracy who wintered in the Caribbean and it still attracts a loyal well-heeled clientele, made up of mainly over-50s couples, who return time after time – some we met were on their eighth visit.

It is also beautifully situated on the south coast opposite Prickly Bay with its marina of expensive yachts. The 30 cottages are disposed in a curve around sweeping lawns, beyond which the sheltered beach of Lance aux Épines awaits. It is quiet and peaceful, a perfect place to relax under the sea grape trees with a book, taking cooling dips in the calm sea or, if very energetic, taking out a kayak. This, interspersed with excellent meals is what the majority of the guests are happy to do throughout their stay. Lance aux Épines however, is eleven kms from the capital, to reach which one needs a taxi. We didn’t have a chance to put to the test the idea that the bus will bring you right here for an extra payment – but it is reputedly so.

Our attractive cottage was well furnished in subtle colours. It was extremely comfortable with all the pampering extras including a fairly large and totally private plunge pool in which it was a delight to take a dip before breakfast and late at night. There is a hill- top spa with open-air treatment room which has an incredible view. At the Calabash too afternoon tea, which is served in the dining room every day, is a pleasant little extra. Another is the weekly Manager’s Cocktail Party at the beach bar where management and the owners, the delightful hands-on Garbutt family – daughter Adele handles Sales & Marketing and Beth, Food & Beverages – mingle and guests are offered champagne and rum punches together with scrumptious canapés.

Breakfast is a unique feature at the Calabash as it is served on the terrace or balcony of your cottage by a uniformed maid who lays the table with a starched white cloth just prior to the hour you have elected in advance. We loved the exotic fresh juice and plates of tropical fruit, mango, banana, melon, all of which were much riper and more flavoursome than any found in the UK. There were also cereals on offer and spectacularly good home-made yogurt as well as cooked-to-order eggs, tomato, bacon etc and toast, marmalade and tea or coffee. A lovely, gracious start to the day – had we stayed any longer we should have begun to miss a well stocked buffet but this is the most minor of quibbles. The Calabash is a very special place with a refined and relaxed atmosphere. The service is friendly and efficient – the young manager Zack Samuel even went the extra mile by coming to sort out my laptop when I thought I’d lost a document. This together with the close involvement of the Garbutt family is the key to the continuing success of the hotel.

Petite Anse

For a truly hidden get-away, though, the boutique hotel, Petite Anse at Sauteurs in the north of the island is the jewel in Grenada’s crown. The north of Grenada is much quieter and less touristy than the south but there is plenty to see. Sauteurs is so named because it was from the cliff here that the Caribs are said to have jumped to their death rather than be taken by the French. A monument marks the spot. There are also good beaches at Bathway and Levera. At Levera too you can also pay a visit to up and coming local artist Doliver Morain whose roadside studio is the place to buy his paintings and tin animals , lovely authentic works of art rather than mere souvenirs.

At Petite Anse thirteen cottages extend down the hillside to the beach while the upper building housing the restaurant and bar has wide views over the ocean and catches all its cooling breezes. This large room surrounded by a veranda, with the dining area at one end, cosy chairs and sofas at the other and a big table laden with books, magazines and wonderful flower arrangements in the centre is, the beating heat of the hotel. Here guests congregate to drink and chat and it is from here that the wonderful owners Philip and Annie Clift distribute hospitality in the true sense of the word.

Our cottage, Palm, was not just within a coconut’s throw of the beach, if we leaned out of our balcony we could almost have picked a coconut! It was prettily furnished with a big four poster bed and fitted with a fan and air conditioning and was clean, comfortable and colourfully decorated – but the style was simple rather than opulent. This ‘simplicity/chic’ style was echoed in the bathroom with its pretty hand-made decorated wash basin, stone floor and open shower accessible from both inside and outside. Our balcony overlooking the beach was a constant delight as from it we could see distant islands, watch the incredible sunset and hear the sound of the waves.

Breakfast is relaxed event. Fresh fruit and juices from the owners’ garden together with cereals and cheeses are on the buffet and a ‘Full English’ is cooked to order if you wish. Home- made bread and pancakes with nutmeg syrup are available – and coffee is served in teapots complete with cosies!

A stay at Petite Anse is perhaps the perfect Caribbean experience because it the hosts are so totally present for the guests that it is almost like staying at a private house. They will arrange beach barbeques, trips to the nearby uninhabited Sandy Island where the boatman will not only organise your lunch but even fish for it while you swim, snorkel or just relax. Annie will introduce you to her dogs and let children ride her donkey Darius (on which she herself frequently rides to work from her plantation house at nearby Mount Rodney) It is this sense of intimacy and fun which goes a long way to creating the most magical holiday experience Grenada has to offer.

The Flamboyant

These are some of Grenada’s top- end hotels but there are many far less expensive establishments which offer good value. One such is The Flamboyant which is situated at Morne Rouge at the south of the Grand Anse Beach. We did not stay there but were shown around prior to dining there. This is an unpretentious place but all rooms are clean and adequately comfortable – and the views are fantastic. The hotel is split level and to reach some rooms there is a very steep climb from the beach– a golf buggy is available to take the strain but we’d advise making sure of a room on the lower level. Here too you can enjoy a weekly Manager’s Rum Punch Party and there is an on-site diving school and free snorkelling. As well as the restaurant there is a Beachside Terrace where you can eat very close to the sea.

As a destination, whether your aim is to bask on near perfect beaches, to explore its history and wildlife, or to engage in water sports, Grenada will not disappoint you.

Useful Links

www.spiceislandbeachresort.com
www.calabashhotel.com
www.petiteanse.com
www.flamboyant.com

For more information about Grenada
www.grenadagrenadines.com

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