The Caribbean country of Grenada is seeing a strong surge of tourists and cruise ships these days. Why? The sunny skies and laid-back ambiance are givens, but there’s so much more to embrace.
Here are 9 reasons for you to love the legendary “Spice Isle” right now:
* Bedazzling Beaches. The three islands that make up the country–Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique–are rimmed with more than 50 beaches. Some are marked by white sand and some by black sand. Others are stony. All are public, but you need a boat to reach the more remote ones. Most glorious and often photographed is Grand Anse Beach, a graceful two-mile curve of powdery white sand that merges into sapphire waters. Book your stay at Mount Cinnamon Resort and Beach Club, and you’re just footsteps away.
* Captivating Cuisine. The culinary scene is rich in gastronomic resources and multinational influences. Grenada’s nickname is the “Spice Isle” for its abundance of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and other seasonings. Add these to fresh-caught seafood and locally grown fruits and vegetables, and you’ve got a distinctly Grenadian outlook on dining. Try the country’s celebratory dish–Oil Down, a hearty one-pot casserole of breadfruit, meat or poultry, callaloo (a spinach-like green), vegetables and, of course, spices.
* International Intrigue. From the first sighting in 1498 by Christopher Columbus, who called the island Concepción but didn’t step foot, to the U.S. military intervention commanded by then-President Ronald Regan in 1983, Grenada has a fascinating history. Visit the 18th Century stone forts that were alternately used by the French and British against each other during their battles for power.
* Wondrous Waterfalls. Grenada has several Instagrammable waterfalls, some more accessible than others. Annandale Waterfall is the easiest to reach. Follow the short paved path through a verdant botanical wonderland. A more challenging and hillier trek is the dirt trail leading to the Seven Sisters Falls in Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve. At both, you can take a refreshing dip in the pool at the bottom.
* Chic Craft Chocolate. For three centuries, Grenada has exported fine cacao to the world. More recently, entrepreneurial tree-to-bar chocolatiers are getting well-deserved acclaim. Their cocoa and chocolate are pure, organic and sustainable.
Tour the chocolate processing facilities at Belmont Estate, the oldest working plantation on Grenada, and sip a cup of the sweetest, chocolate-y-est hot cocoa you’ve ever had. Stop in at the House of Chocolate Grenada, a small museum and cafe where you can stock up on all local cocoa products.
Serious chocoholics should visit during the annual Grenada Chocolate Fest, a 9-day celebration that includes cooking classes, plantation tours, food and drink tastings, entertainment and more.
* Super Snorkeling. One of the most popular snorkeling sites is the Underwater Sculpture Park, a gallery of submerged concrete forms between 12 feet and 25 feet deep. Among them are a man riding a bicycle and another sitting at a desk and typewriter. Don’t miss the ring of two dozen children who are holding hands and peering outward into the unknown waters. Book an excursion with Savvy Sailing Tours.
* Underwater Exploration. Scuba divers find more than 30 sites–reefs, walls and shipwrecks–with great visibility. Experienced divers should check out the Bianca C, a 600-foot-long luxury cruise liner that went down in 1961 after an onboard explosion and fire. Now resting upright in 165 feet of water, it’s the region’s largest shipwreck and top-ranked by international dive enthusiasts.
* A Romance with Rum. Grenda is among the Caribbean’s top producers of the tropical intoxicant, which is made from sugar cane. Clarke’s Court is the country’s largest distillery, producing about 20 light, dark and flavored rums. The local favorite is called Pure White Rum.
River Antoine Estate has been operating since 1785, and its methods have changed little. A water wheel runs the presses that transform sugar cane into super-strong Rivers label rum.
* No Hurricanes. Well, not exactly NO hurricanes, but not many. Grenada is located south of the Caribbean hurricane belt, so the country typically is unscathed. The last one to hit was Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and it was bad. The monster storm devastated more than 80 percent of the country–but it has recovered better than ever.