From waterfalls to rum distilleries, underwater sculptures and bush-walking, Grenada is a glorious introduction to the Caribbean
If you’re one of this year’s 95 ARC+ boats who’ve just made landfall in Grenada, here’s how to stretch your legs (and revive your tastebuds) after a breezy Atlantic crossing.
Historic St George’s
Within walking distance of Camper & Nicholson’s Port Louis Marina is historic St George’s, whose colourful Georgian townhouses were built in brick or masonry after fires razed the wooden town in 1775.
Along the waterfront, you’ll often see huge trawlers getting patched up between long weeks at sea. Historically they would have been careened (beached and turned hull-side up) for maintenance, hence the name of the street, the Carenage.
Tragically, this was also the landing point for many of the 129,000 African slaves brought to the island between 1669-1808. They were imprisoned in pens along the Carenage and traded on Melville Street – look out for the plaque in their memory in the market place.
St George’s market
Saturday is a great day to visit St George’s, when the streets and market square are filled with colourful stalls selling spices, fruit, jewellery, clothing and more.
Sit down, grab a chicken roti (but don’t forget to remove the bones!) or salt-fish salad and enjoy the hustle, bustle and reggae music.
The Grenada National Museum on Young Street is housed in French barracks dating back to 1704, which later served as a prison. Here, you can learn more about slavery, as well as agriculture, the whaling industry and see artefacts from the pre-colonial Amerindian population, wiped out by the European invasion.
In the town centre you’ll find shops selling groceries, pharmaceuticals and hardware, as well banks, a few cafes, and one of the island’s many popular chocolate factories, House of Chocolate.
St George’s is a thoroughfare to the rest of the island. Because of its geography – set on the hillside of a volcanic crater – the town is split in two by the narrow 104m-long Sendall tunnel.
Built for 18th century traffic (ie. carriages and horse-drawn carts) vehicles do occasionally get stuck, jamming the one-way system and forcing 45-minute detours on anyone unlucky enough to be driving through!
St George’s is thrumming with shoppers and traffic, but if you happen to be there on a Sunday, everything’s closed. Take the opportunity to walk up to Fort George. Built in 1705, this small bastion fort is built on several levels, where each would have given fire cover for the one below.
You can explore the cannons and enjoy the peace of the derelict buildings, though part of the area is still housed by the Royal Grenada police force. There are no plaques about the fort’s history, so it’s worth doing a bit of research before you go.
Note that Fort George is currently undergoing restoration and closed to the public. Check with Grenada Tourism Authority for the latest updates.
Grand Anse beach
In the opposite direction to St George’s is Grand Anse beach, a long sweep of golden sands, fronted by smart hotels and a few beach bars.
Umbrellas is a popular eaterie, and there’s a small beach bar outside that does a killer rum punch. Further west is quieter Morne Rouge, known locally as BBC beach, with a relaxed vibe and rustic beach bar that sells delicious fish tacos.
Catching the bus
St George’s and the beaches are easily reached by the frequent minibuses that pass by Port Louis Marina. Either wait at the bus stop by the marina entrance, or flag them down (N0. 1 bus) as they drive past. Rides cost 2.50 ECD or $1, whereas a taxi to Grand Anse beach can be anything between 30-60 ECD.
The bus station in St George’s is the central point for the whole of the island, including Annandale falls (no. 7), Royal Mt Carmel waterfalls (No. 2) and the Seven Sisters falls (No. 6). There are no timetables and the buses are privately owned (though prices are regulated by the government) so it’s best just to ask the drivers for times, fares and where to get off.
Further afield in Grenada
An easier way to tour the island and learn about its history and culture is to book a full or half-day Grenada tour, such as those by Royalty Taxis & Tours with excellent tour guide Sheldon Noel.
Grenada’s rich soil, sunshine and plentiful rain make it ideal for growing cacao beans. The ‘tree-to-bar’ chocolate industry is boutique but flourishing, and well set-up for tourists. At House of Chocolate in St George’s, you can learn how the white fluffy cacao seeds (which taste like Skittles!) are dried in the sun and roasted, creating altogether richer-tasting cocoa beans.
The beans are milled and pressed, and the butter removed, to create exquisite chocolate with 60%, 70% and even 80% cocoa. And guess what? It doesn’t melt!
The rural estates – such as Diamond Chocolate factory – run tours, where a guide will take you around the farm and not only point out the cacao trees, but the spices that give Grenada its nickname of the Spice Island.
Cloves, nutmeg and ginger are all ingredients that find their way into the chocolate. In fact, anything goes; there’s even an aphrodisiac brand of chocolate called Bois Bande.
You can watch the process of the chocolate being made, and buy items from the shop. Chocolate balls (used to make hot chocolate), cocoa butter and the bars themselves make great gifts. If there’s a cafe, don’t pass up on the chance to try Grenada’s spicy cocoa tea.
Why tree-to-bar chocolate is best
This year’s ARC+ participants also visited Tri Island chocolate factory, owned by British Grenadian Aaron Sylvester. A former music promoter to Sade and Westlife, Aaron moved from London to Grenada in 2016 after inheriting his grandparents’ cocoa plantation. He is now one of the seven tree-to-bar chocolate producers on the island.
Aaron explained that Grenadian tree-to-bar chocolate really is unique as it’s flavoured by the roots of neighbouring spice and fruit trees, taking on its own distinct flavour, which you don’t get in ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate such as that made in Belgium and Switzerland.
In the grounds of Grenada’s older estates you might find a decaying cauldron, rusty waterwheel or the stone ruins of an overseers’ house dating back to the sugar industry. Derelict mills can be seen from the side of the road, and it’s not unusual to stumble across the odd weed-covered cane press whilst hiking.
Sugar plantations in the Caribbean were a major part of island economy, producing as much as 90% of the sugar consumed in Western Europe. Until abolished in 1833, slavery was the source of labour, and even after this time, indentured servants from India, worked in comparably harsh conditions.
Whilst there’s little physical evidence remaining of Grenada’s dark history under colonial rule, a visit to the River Antoine Rum Distillery gives an idea of how the traditional machinery works. The distillery claims to have been continuously running since it was built in 1785. After watching the production cycle – from harvested sugarcane to extracted juice and fermentation – you can taste the rum.
Sugar cane fields grow right across Grenada, but interestingly, each one produces a different batch of rum, which those with a discerning palate can taste. There are three distilleries, producing a range of light, dark and spiced rums, which are exported worldwide and can also be found in the supermarkets.
Hiking in Grenada
Hikers are in for a treat. Grenada’s stunning trails meander through nutmeg and cocoa plantations and the tropical rainforest in the mountains. Grand Etang Lake and National Park (reached from the No 6 bus in St George’s bus terminal) has over 35km of recreational trails, from short shoreline loops to rough-terrain waterfall walks.
You might get a glimpse of the Mona monkeys (guides call them down with whistles and bananas) or, surprisingly, the population of stray cats, who’ve made themselves a home around the shores of the deep crater lake.
Shaded by towering bamboo and mahogany trees, and carpeted with bromeliads, ferns and orchids, the trails are wonderfully cool, and populated by tropical birds, tiny frogs and rustling lizards.
Mystery crater lake
Grand Etang lake is a volcanic crater and never dries out, yet at its shallowest depth it’s 60m. Tour guide Sheldon Noel of Royalty Tours explains that it’s a bit of a mystery.
“No-one knows how deep the lake really is, nor where the water source comes from, but it can’t be from rain; not for a lake this deep,” explains Sheldon. “If anyone would like to survey it we would like to hear from them!”
Hashing in Grenada
If you want to hike with company, but not on a tour, why not join a ‘hash’? Grenada’s Hash House Harriers is part of an international organisation of hashers, where the ‘hare’ lays a trail out of paper and the ‘hounds’ run or walk along the trail, often through mud, rivers and bush.
Run by locals, the hashes take place every Saturday, and finish with a social gathering filled with beer and hot food. At their peak, these events attract several hundred hounds, many of them visitors. Find out details on the Grenada Hash House Harriers Facebook site.
There are 18 waterfalls in Grenada, including Annandale, where for a small fee you can cool off in the shady pool under a 40ft cascade, surrounded by jungle. It’s worth stopping here for lunch or a drink, if only to watch the crazy guides throw themselves off the highest ridge, to huge applause (and tips) from tourists.
Seven Sisters waterfall is a half-hour downhill walk from the road (catch the No. 6 bus from St George’s or take a tour), and is a lovely way to combine bush-hiking with a cool swim at the end. This was popular with this year’s ARC+ participants, including a whippet, who was only too glad to cool off after the transatlantic crossing.
Snorkelling and diving
Grenada’s main snorkelling spots can be found along the west and south coasts and around the smaller sister island of Carriacou. Conditions are best in the dry season (January to May) before the trade winds kick in.
It’s also worth taking some goggles to the waterfalls where fresh water fish can be seen darting around.
Magazine beach near the airport has a coral reef about 45m offshore. There’s no coral at Grand Anse, but when the waters are still you can still see plenty of tropical fish.
Moliniere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park
The most popular place to snorkel is Moliniere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park. Designed by British sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor, there are over 60 statues you can see from the surface, or free-dive to for a better look. Although you can get there independently, it’s an attraction best booked with a tour operator, who can take you to the site by boat on days that conditions allow. Non-swimmers can enjoy the spectacle from a glass-bottom boat. Tours depart from Grand Anse Beach and St George’s.
A mile east of St George’s, Fort Frederick is the best preserved of Grenada’s 18th century forts but has never fired a shot in anger. It was built by the French in 1779 but finished by the British four years later when the Treaty of Versailles gave Grenada back to Britain.
Grenada’s independence from the British was not achieved until 1974. A tumultuous chain of events then followed with a coup in 1979 by the Marxist New Jewel Movement, which was overthrown in 1983 by US troops, resulting in the death of prime minister Maurice Bishop and 18 other soldiers, politicians and civilians.
In 2004, nature struck a blow with Hurricane Ivan, where 160mph winds tore down buildings and uprooted trees, resulting in the loss of 41 lives.
Hosting the ARC+
This is the third year that Grenada has hosted the ARC+. Petra Roach, CEO of Grenada Tourism Authority, told cruisers at the ARC+ welcome party in 2022 that 45% of GDP comes from tourism, and they recognise that sailing is one of the ‘anchors’ to build on.
In this year’s tourism conference, Nicoyan Roberts pointed out how important the ARC+ is for the local economy.
“Nautical tourism brings an economic boost across our tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique,” she said. “Through tours and maritime services … Every berth that is occupied, every boat that has its sails fixed sustains businesses and families’ livelihoods on our islands.”
The conference was also attended by ARC+ cruisers who shared their experience of the crossing, including Stef and Rich Stevens who crossed the Atlantic with their 7-month old baby Roux, 2-year-old Jesse, plus Stef’s dad and Rich’s brother.
Jessie, sporting a duck comforter on his head, raised a few laughs amongst journalists when he attempted to take the microphone.
Grenada Cruisers net
The local cruising community also extends a warm welcome to visiting sailors. For ideas of where to cruise, or if you need repairs, parts, up-to-date weather, or social events, tune-in to the Cruisers Net, 0730 Monday to Saturday on VHF Ch 66.
Your other resource is the Grenada Cruisers Facebook page, run by a group of sailors including Lynn Kaak, Ken Goodings – who also does the Monday Cruisers Net – and the well known pilot book author Chris Doyle. Be sure to use the search bar before posting, as your topic may have already been covered.
More information about Grenada can be found at the Grenada Tourism Authority website.