Words and Photos by Jesse Serwer
LargeUp recently hopped a Jetblue flight to Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport to catch the second-annual Pure Grenada Music Festival. Concerts took place over three nights on the scenic, waterfront grounds of St. George’s Port Louie earlier this month, and featured performances from the likes of Tarrus Riley, Queen Ifrica and Mr. Killa, among others, not to mention delicious food from vendors from across the island.
Not only did we have a great time taking in all three nights of the Pure Grenada Festival, but we crammed in as much of the Spice Island as we could into a long weekend, from Grand Anse to Grenville to Gouyave. In that spirit, here’s a dozen musts for maximizing your time in Grenada. It might be a challenge to cram all of this into a weekend, but we can’t imagine doing it any other way. And when all else fails… extend that stay.
1. TOUR ST. GEORGE’S
One of the most picturesque capital cities in all of the Caribbean, St. George’s is the sort of place where your photos come out looking like paintings. Get to know Grenada from offshore with a day cruise on one of the catamarans docked on the harbor (these are just as popular with locals as they are with tourists, especially the Rhum Runner boats) then take a walk along the Carenage (as St. George’s waterfront esplanade is called. Grab lunch or dinner at BB’s Crabback or Patrick’s Local Homestyle Cooking. BB’s Crabback is internationally known for chef Brian Benjamin’s spin on crab back, an Eastern Caribbean classic which involves stuffing the meat of 10 or so crabs inside a single crab shell. Patrick’s is a popular spot for Creole specialties, including manicou and stir-fried rabbit. Vegetarian? We recommend the breadfruit salad…
2. TOUCH THE ROAD
At just 134 square miles, Grenada is small enough to traverse in a morning or afternoon, yet still big enough to get lost in. Whether you rent a car, hire a driver or join up with a tour group, getting out and exploring the island is a must. From colorfully appointed rum shacks to the roadside art that greets you on arrival to each of the island’s villages, there’s always something to see out your window.
3. GET TO KNOW YOUR NUTMEG
Nutmeg grows everywhere in Grenada and it’s used in almost everything, from ice cream to marinades to arthritis medicine. Grenada’s nutmeg is considered among the best of the world, and, as the island’s No. 1 export, a major contributor to the economy. (Only Indonesia, a country over 5,000 times its size, exports more). To follow Grenadian nutmeg’s path from the tree to the world, visit Belmont Estate, a working organic farm with a restaurant serving only food grown onsite; nutmeg is among several spices harvested here, as is cocoa. For the price of $1US, visitors can also tour the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station in Gouyave, in the northwest of the island, where much of the island’s nutmeg is sorted, processed and prepared for international distribution. It’s also home to a gift shop, where you can purchase jams, jellies, syrups, medications and rum punch made with the stuff.
4. HIT THE BEACH AT GRAND ANSE
The Grand Anse is one of the best public beaches in the Caribbean — or anywhere, really. This 1.5-mile-long expanse of white sand is dotted with hotels, but unlike so many other resort areas, everyone is welcome — all beaches in Grenada are public. On a Saturday or Sunday, it can seem like everyone in Grenada is sunbathing here, yet it never feels particularly crowded. One of the perks of being on an island with just 100,000 people and less than 2,000 hotel rooms…
5. GRAB A DRINK AT CHARLIE’S BAR
Charlie’s Bar, in the suitably named village of Happy Hill, is one of the best-known rum shops in Grenada, thanks in so small part to its appearance. Coming up on the Western Main Road, you can’t miss it. Owner Martin Oswell Nicholas — “Charlie” — has covered the surrounding property in colorful designs and statements, painted on tires, signs and other surfaces. The colors and slogans continue inside, where you ‘ll always find Charlie manning the bar with a smile. It’s a great place to stop for a beer with a friend or, if you prefer, enjoy a moment of solitude with your libation.
6. TAKE A HIKE
With its rugged, volcanic terrain, Grenada has some of the best hiking in the Eastern Caribbean. A good place for an introduction is the Grand Etang National Park & Forest Reserve, in the center of the island. From the parking area near Grand Etang Lake, a water-filled crater located within an extinct volcano, one can begin the hike to the Seven Sisters Waterfall or Mount Qua Qua. More than likely you’ll run into some of the Mona monkeys that frequent the vicinity. More adventurous hikers can climb Mount St. Catherine, Grenada’s tallest peak at just under 3,000 feet, further north on the island. For a quintessential Grenada hike experience, inquire after Telfor Bedeau (pictured above). The 77-year-old outdoorsman introduced to us as “Grenada’s Indiana Jones” has climbed Mount St. Catherine over 200 times (and is the only person known to have kayaked around the island), and knows the island’s ins, outs, ups and downs more intimately than any map.
7. DIVE INTO A WATERFALL
Grenada is home to at least a dozen waterfalls, most of which can be reached via hiking trail. You won’t need hiking boots for Annandale Falls, in the village of Willis, about three miles northeast of St. George’s. Just park on the street, pay any of the adjacent establishments or vendors $1US, and walk down a flight of stairs to reach the pool. Though adventure seekers may be tempted, it’s not recommended that you dive off the top of the falls yourself — just get out your camera, snap a photo of one of the young daredevils waiting by the falls in mid-air, and plunge into the pool below from a less extreme vantage point.
8. SEE RUM MADE THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY AT RIVER ANTOINE DISTILLERY
At River Antoine Distillery, producers of Rivers Royale Grenadian Rum, rum is still made the way it was in 1785, when this idyllic facility in the parish of St. Patrick first opened. Literally, nothing has changed: A waterwheel (likely the same one used back then) is used to power the extraction of cane juice, making River Antoine one of the last distilleries to use this original method. Next, cane juice is allowed to ferment naturally (without the introduction of yeast, or any other hastening agent) in large vats for up to 10 days, a process known as pot stilling. Grenada is known for its strong rum, and Rivers’ 180-proof variety is slap-you-in-the-face powerful. For those who prefer a less intense drinking experience, Rivers also makes Passion Fruit and Chocolate rum punches. Each is available for sale at the distillery, though not off the island: This throwback to the earliest days of rum production can only produce enough to meet local demand.
9. TRY SOME STREET FOOD
As elsewhere in the Caribbean, there’s plenty of places in Grenada to grab a great meal by the side of the road. For the widest selection of street food, hit the area known as “Wall Street,” near Grand Anse and the Spiceland Mall. Food trucks serving BBQ chicken and pork, grilled lambi, waters (soup) and more typically line up here on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays after about 9.
10. CATCH A FESTIVAL
Spicemas, Grenada’s big Carnival celebration, isn’t until August, but there’s cultural festivals happening throughout the year in Grenada. Immediately following the Pure Grenada Festival in May is the Grenada Chocolate Festival, which celebrates the island’s status as a major cocoa producer with events held at sites across the island, including Belmont Estate. Victoria, a small fishing town in the northern parish of St. Mark’s, hosts the St. Mark’s Sunset City Festival once a month on Saturday as well as St Mark’s Day Festival in April; the Grenada Sailing Festival typically takes place in late January. The neighboring island of Carriacou also has a number of festivals including its own Carnival, Shakespeare Mas, on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday; and the Carriacou Maroon & String Band Music Festival in April.
11. PUMP TO SOME SOCA
Not to be outdone by neighbors Trinidad, Barbados and St. Vincent, Grenada produces some sweet soca music. The Spice island has developed its own soca sound, Jab Jab, associated with the Jab Jab Mas played during Spicemas, in which heavily drum-driven rhythms are punctuated by the call of bellowing conch shells. Some of the top artists hailing from the island are Mr. Killa (pictured above, from his performance at the Pure Grenada Music Festival), Tallpree, Lavaman and Skinny Banton. As elsewhere, soca becomes more prevalent during Carnival season, but live concerts from local and international performers and soca fetes occur all year long. For your weekend soca fix, try Club Fantazia on Morne Rouge Beach on Friday and Saturday night, or the Jab Jab Village fete, every Sunday afternoon through evening in Morne Delice, St David’s.
12. BATHE IN NATURAL SULFUR SPRINGS
A bonus of being on a volcanic island is that there are usually a few sulfur springs around. Popular for their restorative properties, hot sulfur springs are the prescription for many common skin ailments, as well as a great place to relax your muscles after a long hike or a strenuous day of sailing. Grenada has a handful of natural sulphur springs which are fairly small and hidden compared to those on Dominica and Saint Lucia, and well off the beaten tourist bath. More than likely, you’ll find yourself in blissful solitude should you make the trek. Driver and guide Tom Sanderson of Grenada Tours is fond of the hot spring at Clabony (that’s Tom in the picture above) in the parish of St. Andrew, and makes regular visits. He’s the man to call to get you through the worn, treacherous road here, which is not for fainthearted drivers.
For more information on Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, visit PureGrenada.com.