A few luxury resorts and less expensive hotels co-exist along the beach, which is open to all.
A bus network of small, communal vans crisscrosses the island from the terminal in St. George’s, the capital. Jammed in with locals, this may be the surest way for a visitor to get close to Grenadians. But with the hilly terrain, those subject to carsickness should try to sit up front.
During a tour of Laura Herb and Spice Garden, a botanical showcase rich with the scent of cinnamon and allspice, one visitor was felled by carsickness. In a heap on the ground, she remained too dizzy to move. The remedy was fresh ginger root from the garden. A few nibbles of ginger, cleaned of its outer covering, cured her. By afternoon she was drinking Margaritas.
Not just a one-cure garden shaded by cocoa, nutmeg and cinnamon trees, Laura’s is a pharmacopoeia of natural remedies. It offers cures for insect bites, diarrhea, asthma, menstrual cramps and even cancer.
With ginger at the ready, the curving roads are well worth the trip over the mountainous spine of the island formed by prehistoric volcanoes. For hikers, Grenada’s national parks offer much more rugged terrain in cloud-capped rain forests.
Along the road, brightly painted concrete bus shelters advertise local products, including Nut-Med, the instant pain reliever with nutmeg oil. Pink, blue and orange houses with red roofs line the road. Painted tires hold blossoming plants. A goat with bushy brown goatee is tethered roadside. A white-chested mona monkey appears in a roadside tree. And everywhere, the non-stop chirping of tree frogs fills the air.
When it comes to food, the leatherback turtles feed almost exclusively on jellyfish. But for humans, Grenada’s agricultural and fishing economy offers abundant choice. St. George’s small, open-air street market on Market Square showcases the bounty. At its peak on Saturdays, vendors display bananas still hanging in giant clusters, mangoes, coconuts, ginger, hot peppers and root vegetables. In a nearby building, women sell small bags of nutmeg, balls of chocolate to grate for hot chocolate and gift baskets of spices.
The ocean yields a rich supply of fish. The biggest fish feast of all occurs on Fish Friday, the weekly evening event in Gouyave, a fishing village on the west coast. Started after Hurricane Ivan decimated Grenada in 2004, Fish Friday is now a Grenada institution. Vendors line the streets grilling, steaming and sauteeing the fresh catch as locals and visitors make the rounds, usually with live music.
You can do your own cooking of local specialties with lessons from the chefs at Aquarium, one of Grenada’s top restaurants. I joined a class that made pumpkin and ginger soup and callaloo cannelloni, using the leafy green callaloo that tastes a bit like spinach. We cooked in the kitchen of one of the luxury tourist suites at Maca Bana (owned by the same couple that owns Aquarium), then ate our meal on a patio overlooking the Caribbean.
It’s possible to eat, drink and swim without ever going into St. George’s, but the tiny capital explodes with activity. Cars honk hellos. Giant speakers in front of hole-in-the-wall bars blare soca (as in “soul of calypso”) and steel pan music. Students at the New Dimension School Steel Band Music Program fill the surrounding streets with the sounds of heaven or pandemonium, depending on your taste. In the fish market by the town dock, fishmongers scream at each other, oblivious to the sign requesting “No obscene language.”
But night by the beach in Grand Anse brings almost total quiet. As little puffs of tropical air blow in from the Caribbean, the only sounds are the surf breaking along the sand and the tree frogs. And in the north, where the leatherbacks come ashore, an even deeper quiet envelops this still natural island.