It’s not the most famous, most frequently Instagrammed, or most blogged about Caribbean island—which is part of the reason you should be setting course for Grenada, which more than holds its own against better-publicized neighbors. For centuries, traders flocked there for its abundance of valuable spices, and the smell of nutmeg in the air still greets visitors upon their arrival.
But now the main attractions are Grenada’s natural beauty, stunning beaches and a level of tranquility hard to find in more developed destinations. In fact, its relatively low profile has enabled it to maintain the characteristics and personality that make it feel truly unique in the Caribbean, a throwback to a time before Expedia and cruise ships by the score.
Most visitors are greeted on this marvelous island by perhaps the most stunning port town in the entire region, St. George’s. Vibrant and colorful architecture surround the mesmerizing harbor, while a stroll through its narrow streets and alleys conveys a strong sense of the city’s colonial history. Local shops and street food vendors make exploring the town a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, and they strike a perfect balance with the beaches and natural settings that will take up much of one’s time on Grenada. St. George’s Market Square is the largest market on the island and a great place to both people-watch and experience Grenada’s bountiful products.
A benefit of the gradual pace with which Grenada has been developed for tourism is the abundance of natural parks, isolated beaches and exotic wildlife. Of the island’s 45-plus beaches, the most popular by far is Grand Anse Beach, located some five miles from St. George’s. A two-mile stretch of idyllic white sand paradise cozies up to a turquoise sea that shifts to a deep cerulean color just a few yards offshore.
Numerous watersports are available on the beach, with snorkeling a popular option for exploring beneath the surface, and waterskiing and paddleboarding on top of the water. Backed by a charming selection of hotels, restaurants and beach bars, it’s the perfect way to enjoy a stunning natural view without ever leaving the convenience of nearby amenities and delicious refreshments.
However most of Grenada’s meandering coastline is jagged and untamed, meaning an array of different types and sizes of beachfronts are on offer for visitors. La Sagesse Beach offers seclusion, with large coconut palms providing shade for beachgoers, and extravagant flora providing a stunning backdrop for this hidden natural gem. There is also Levera Beach, part of Levera National Park, with its mangrove swamps, lagoon and abundant birds and other wildlife, in addition to a stunning beach, quiet during the week, that overlooks both the surrounding blue waters and nearby Sugar Loaf island.
Additional natural wonders can be found thanks an array of gorgeous waterfalls, with sites like Annandale, Concord, Victoria and the Seven Sisters waterfalls all located on this one small island. Most require short walks, hikes or treks of varying difficulty, so either grab a map and some good hiking shoes, or hire one of the local guides who can help visitors fully appreciate the water features and surrounding rainforest.
Ironically for an island of such unspoiled natural beauty, one of the most amazing attractions anywhere on Grenada can be found just offshore in the Molinere Beauséjour Marine Protected Area off the west coast of the island. The Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, founded by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, is a surreal installation of at least 75 pieces of art in a series of different collections placed on and around the seafloor. Since the park’s creation, tropical fish, coral and sponges have made the exhibits their home and both scuba divers and snorkelers can visit the site and enjoy one of the most unique underwater experiences to be found anywhere on the planet.
Finally, Magazine Beach offers another option for those seeking an equally stunning beachfront excursion. Light pink sand and blue-green waters greet visitors, who are likely to find the peace and quiet they’re seeking along this stretch of the beach. The snorkeling just offshore is superb and accessible to swimmers of all levels. We recommend combining a day spent frolicking in the waves with a dinner reservation nearby at The Aquarium Restaurant. Fusing international dishes with West Indian traditional flavors, this seafood-centric establishment offers incredible freshly caught menu options, including our favorite, the Aquarium Medley, which offers guests a large selection of lobster, scallops, jumbo shrimp and fish to share.
Speaking of truly special culinary options, Grenada is not lacking when it comes to fine dining on par with any Caribbean destination. Many of the top dining options are found at the elite hotels on the island, an added attraction for those who stay at these world-class properties.
One of the most highly regarded of these is Calabash, a five-star institution that is a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux group. Visitors can stay in spaces ranging from impressive junior suites to standalone villas that offer all of the privacy and comfort of a private home with the elite service and attention one would expect from a five-star resort. With names like Caribali, Hummingbird and Treefrog, these villas are an Instagrammer’s dream, with jaw-dropping views and amenities such as infinity pools, Balinese-style cathedral ceilings and polished hardwood floors.
Calabash is also home to Rhodes Restaurant, an open-air space founded by the late renowned chef Gary Rhodes. Surrounded by flowering plants, palm trees and sparkling lights, the only thing that can distract diners from their surroundings are the delectable dishes on offer. From the first appetizer through dessert, each dish is treated with the utmost care, including the rotating list of specials that highlight local proteins and spices.
Another option for uncompromising luxury and service is Silversands Grenada. In addition to guest rooms and suites that combine modern design with an open, breezy layout, guests can also choose one of the private villas, with their own pools or views of the sea that will impress even the most jaded of travelers. The resort has something for everyone, whether your preferences lean towards the rum and cigar lounge—ours do— the full-service spa, or a beach club with resident DJ.
It also offers multiple dining options, including the deservedly-acclaimed Asiatique, where diners are treated to dishes that integrate Asian techniques into local ingredients and traditional Grenadian spices. Sustainability is a key tenet for the resort, which sources most of its fruits and vegetables from local female growers, supporting both on-island food sources and female economic empowerment amongst the local population.
Then there is Spice Island Beach Resort, featuring 64 beachfront suites are unique in their layout, as each suite provides a level of privacy and exclusivity sure to satisfy the expectations of the most demanding of guests. Breezy terraces and private lawn gardens provide a space for relaxation and rejuvenation, and many have private plunge pools in case the gentle breezes aren’t sufficient to cool off midday. In addition to standouts like the chic Janissa’s Spa and available beachside yoga sessions, Spice Island can offer culinary options including the fabulous Oliver’s Restaurant. In this open-air dining room with splendid views of the sea, diners are treated to exquisite offerings of both international and Creole dishes, all while being serenaded by calypso, reggae and steel bands from the island, making this one of the most authentic local dining experiences imaginable.
Last but not least, those with an eco-friendly leaning can find true bliss at Mount Cinnamon Grenada, a boutique property featuring 37 suites and villas adjacent to the idyllic Grand Anse Beach. Despite possessing a more laid-back vibe than some of its peers on the island, the resort doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to luxury and service. While in-house restaurant Savvy’s serves delicious options for breakfast and dinner, we find ourselves drawn from the beach to the midday barbecue and ice-cold beverages at Savvy’s Beach Cabana, open until the sun goes down at the end of your beach day. Find a spot in the shade of the palm trees that line the beach and enjoy your favorite cocktail.
While lesser known than some of the other Caribbean island destinations, Grenada has been growing its reputation as a world-class luxury getaway and drawing more diverse visitors with its combination of extravagant luxury and natural beauty. The island has also been making more of an impact globally. For instance, the up-and-coming designer Fe Noel, whose family hails from the island, made a huge splash at New York Fashion Week earlier this year with her Grenadian-inspired clothing line. This follows the creation of Grenada Fashion Week a few years back, which not only brought attention to the island, but to the fashion styles and talented designers coming from the small nation.
Needless to say, Grenada is a destination on the rise. But while unrestrained development and shortsighted planning has turned some Caribbean islands into seemingly artificial and inauthentic destinations, Grenada has managed to develop world-class amenities without losing its natural wonders, its small-island feel and the warmth and hospitality that make a visit there such an intoxicating experience.