My arrival at Maurice Bishop International Airport is after sunset, and the short drive to the hotel is by moonlight. The air is warm and sweet, and after a long day of traveling, I drift off to sleep to the sound of tree frogs chirping and waves lapping somewhere in the distance.
With the sunrise, the tiny island of Grenada reveals itself. All lush and green, mountains rising in the distance, and a long stretch of golden sand curving its way to the city of St. George's a few miles down the beach.
Grenada is located about 100 miles north of Venezuela in the eastern Caribbean. At 310 kilometres square, just slightly more than 100,000 people call the islands of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique home. The capital city of St. George's is considered one of the most picturesque in the Caribbean, with its candy-coloured facades rising up along the water's edge. This is a favourite port of call for the cruise lines, and many tourists' only experience of Grenada would be a day in St. George's. While the pretty town is worth the trip, the rest of the island has so much more to reveal.
Where to Stay
The aptly named Spice Island Beach Resort is perfectly poised on Grand Anse Beach. With suites named after the exotic spices the island is known for, I wake to the rich surroundings of the Royal Mace suite, part of the hotel's Royal Collection Pool Suites.
It's really a cross between a mini villa and your own charming little Caribbean cottage. The 1,500 sq. ft. suite includes a small living room, huge bedroom with soaring ceilings and an expansive marble bath. The rooms are furnished in rich colonial style. Turned wood chairs and a four-poster bed are matched to seagrass covered
benches. Fine Italian Frette linens and Molton Brown bath amenities are added touches of luxury. The real treat is the outdoor space though. You first swipe the room key to enter the enclosed courtyard of the suite. This entirely private, walled space encloses a large terrace and garden with dining and lounging area, a cedar sauna and your own private 16-foot by 20-foot pool. After crossing the terrace, a few steps lead up to the door to the suite.
With rooms at Spice Island that boast their own pool, or lead directly onto the beach; the most difficult part of any stay would be choosing which room to book. After long days spent in the sun and sand, and exploring the island, the pool suite seems the ideal choice to me. The beach is just a few steps away across the path and past the almond tree. After I've soaked up every possible moment of the Caribbean day and the beach and main pool are long in darkness, I can still enjoy the warm air ““ or cool water of the pool ““ in my private terrace.
Spice Island Beach Resort is designed in the tradition of fine hoteliers by a native Grenadian with a penchant for perfection. With more than 50 years experience in the hospitality industry, Sir Royston Hopkin, his son and two daughters operate this world-class resort with all the personal attention one would expect from a family-owned and operated business.
The entire property ““ and experience ““ is seeped with civility, from the quiet, attentiveness of the dining room servers and daily tea service served poolside or in your suite, to being greeted by name by each and every resort employee that crosses my path.
Where to Spa
I don't admit to this often, but there are occasions in this line of work where I am a bit spoiled. I may have the luxury to indulge in more spa treatments, more often than most. What I admit to less frequently is where I have truly experienced the very best of something, but the very best massage ever is the Balinese massage at LaLuna in Grenada.
Laluna is a completely secluded hideaway surrounded by green hills and a pristine beach. There are just 16 cottages dotted on ten acres, making for a very limited number of guests at any time. Laluna opened a spa and wellness centre in 2008, offering unique retreats including yoga, pilates and meditation.
We begin the day at Laluna with a yoga session. The pavilion is Balinese -inspired, and tucked into lush trees, a few steps from the beach. Truly an idyllic spot to relax, the ocean breeze cooling the hot day, the instructor's voice punctuated only by the sound of the sea licking the sand.
Just behind the yoga pavilion, and every bit as charming, is the spa. The lobby is open to the outdoors, with rustic wood finishes and rich Indonesian furnishings. Spa products are hand made for the resort in Bali, and the key to the quality of the treatments: two expert Balinese spa therapists.
The one-hour Balinese Massage Therapy is traditional massage combining stretching, rolling and kneading strokes with varying pressure designed to relieve tension, improve blood flow, and renew and heal the body. Two words: best ever. And at just $95 (US) for a 60-minute treatment, a bargain even before considering the unbelievable location and quality of service.
If you can't get enough indulging at the spa, La Source may be the right choice for you. This unique all-inclusive resort has 100 guest rooms on Pink Gin Beach. Special to La Source is what is included in their all-inclusive menu. Aside from the usual accommodations, dining and entertainment, the resort offers guests complimentary yoga, tai chi, pilates and mediation classes and includes one spa treatment per guest, per day.
Where to Explore
Beyond the sand of Grenada's beaches (45 of which are white sand, and nine black sand, as I am informed by our very knowledgeable and amiable guide Roger Augustine) Grenada is rich in culture, history and opportunity for outdoor adventure.
Grenada is known as the spice island for their exports of spices including nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves and ginger; and you can literally see fruits and spices hanging roadside from trees while you explore the island.
To literally step back in time, visit the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station and River Antoine Rum Distillery. River Antoine is the oldest rum factory in operation in the western hemisphere, and is still powered with a water wheel. At Gouyave, nutmeg is still sorted and processed by hand, as it has always been.
Racks stretch across the building where the nutmeg dries for eight weeks, turned twice a day each day until they are ready to be cracked, and then hand sorted from the shells for packaging. Purchase packets of whole nutmegs here to take home for just a few dollars. You can't take any of the rum off the island though ““ its high alcohol content makes it a banned substance for airline travel!
Exploring slightly inland offers visitors a number of waterfalls to explore, as well as national parks. Grenada has taken care to protect its natural environment, and offers adventure opportunity for any skill level. A heavy rainfall the night before we arrived meant a hike through Grand Etang National Park to the Seven Sisters waterfalls had to be abandoned due to muddy trails; but Annandale, Concord and Victoria Falls all offer easy access and spectacular views.
Grand Anse Beach's three kilometres is by far Grenada's best-known stretch of sand. This is where you will find most resort development, water sports and restaurants. Uninterrupted views of the island are maintained by a strict code of not building “taller than a palm tree”.
For a more out the way day in the sand, La Sagesse Beach is a short walk from the main road, and well worth the small effort. Virtually secluded and completely natural, this beach offers great views of the rocky coastline and the feeling that you have completely escaped civilization.
No visit to Grenada would be complete without a day in St. George exploring the narrow, winding streets. Visit the market to buy spices of all kinds and locally produced nutmeg and sorrel syrups.
At dinner one evening, Spice Island Beach Resort owner Sir Royston Hopkin recalled wanting to develop a welcome cocktail for his guests that was elegant, but special to his island. He came up with the perfect marriage of sophistication and local flavour in his “Spice Island Classic”: prosecco kissed with fiery red-coloured, sweet sorrel syrup. His Classic became an evening ritual for my Grenadian adventure, so when the sorrel syrup that travelled home with me is gone, I'll have no choice but to return to the spice isle for another taste.