By PAMELA McKUEN
Special to the Journal Topics
Tourists and cruise ships are flocking like shorebirds to the tri-island destination, a record-breaking 13 percent increase in 2018 over the previous year. The draws are numerous: Velvety soft beaches, frothy waterfalls, verdant rainforest, tantalizing history, and a location south of the hurricane belt. And rum.
We had to find out for ourselves.
We anchored our stay at Mount Cinnamon Resort and Beach Club, a chic boutique retreat of 30 luxury villas and hacienda suites. Ours was one of the Cinnamon suites, designed with a spacious sitting room and veranda overlooking the cerulean waters of Grand Anse Bay.
On the main hotel level are the waterfall swimming pool, friendly cocktail bar and casually upscale Savvy’s restaurant — open for breakfast and dinner. Across the street, just past flowering gardens and a human-scale chessboard is Grand Anse Beach. The Beach Cabana serves up light bites, sandwiches, sweets and drinks from mid-morning until sunset. Powdery white sand stretches in a graceful curve for more than a mile. It’s arguably one of the most stunning playas in the whole Caribbean.
While we’re thinking about eating, it’s worth noting that Grenada, which includes the islands of Petite Martinique and Carriacou, is collectively known as the “Spice Isle.” The country is a major exporter of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and cocoa. Team that spice rack with local ingredients from the sea, gardens and orchards, and we’re in for delicious eating.
At Mount Cinnamon Resort and Beach Club, we indulged our culinary fancies with cocoa tea with cinnamon at breakfast and a romantic lobster dinner on the beach. Our itinerary even included a Cinnamon Signature Massage at the spa.
We booked our day-trip with Ashton Taxi and Tour Services, whose namesake drove us along hilly, circuitous roads through quaint villages and lush tropical forest.
Our first stop was Fort Frederick, 730 feet above sea level and the best-preserved fort on the island. Here we get our first history lesson: Grenada was colonized by the French during the mid-1600s. A century later, it was fought over by France and Britain until being ceded to the British in 1783 by the Treaty of Paris.
Construction on all-stone Fort Frederick was begun by the French in 1779 and completed by the British in 1791. Grenada won its independence in 1974. Today the fort is a popular tourist attraction and wedding venue.
Aside from its contentious past, Fort Frederick affords the most impressive views on the island. The panorama takes in both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean as well as the picturesque Carenage, or waterfront, at the capital city of St. George’s.
Then it was on to Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve, a high-elevation rainforest with 20-plus trail miles and a freshwater lake that fills the crater left behind by an extinct volcano. The vegetation provides habitats and hideaways for abundant wildlife. Scan the tree branches, and a white-chested mona monkey might stare back at you.
Nearby is Annandale Waterfall, easily accessible via a smooth pathway winding through free-roaming flora. If you like, you can take a dip in the shallow pool at the bottom.
At one point, Ashton made an unexpected stop to buy bananas from a street vendor. He offered the small yellow fruits to us, and I took one. It was the sweetest, most flavorful banana ever, and I’m sure it’s the only one I’ll ever remember.
The afternoon was further sweetened by two Grenadian culinary staples — cocoa and sugar cane.
Belmont Estate is an authentic 17th century plantation and family-friendly agro-tourism destination. During our visit, we toured the cocoa processing plant and the chocolate factory, and then sipped cups of delectable hot cocoa. We also strolled the goat barn, where its residents were eager for petting and belligerent if they didn’t get it. Lunch at the open-air restaurant featured a buffet of traditional Grenadian cuisine.
River Antoine Estate is a rum distillery founded in 1785, and whose processes have changed little since then. Waterwheel-driven presses separate sugar cane from its juices, which are left in open vats to ferment naturally. The brand is something of a cult favorite — River Antoine produces 500 bottles a day and sells out.
After our land tour, we met up with Danny, owner of Savvy Sailing Adventure, for an afternoon snorkel cruise aboard a 43-foot handcrafted sloop named Savvy. From Port Louis Marina, we passed sailboats and super-yachts, then headed up the western coastline.
Danny regaled us with stories of 200 years of wooden boat-building artistry while supplying us with cool beverages, tropical fruits and banana bread. He also recounted Grenada’s more recent history, the 1983 U.S. military intervention. After Grenada became independent, self-rule grew volatile, then bloody, as warring factions skewed Marxist. Then-President Ronald Reagan ordered troops to the island, and within weeks a constitutional government was restored.
By then we had reached our first snorkeling point, Flamingo Bay, where I spotted mostly sea urchins and silver-and-black striped sergeant majors.
The second was the Underwater Sculpture Park within the Molinere Beauséjour Marine Protected Area. The gallery of concrete forms, begun in 2006 by British sculptor and marine conservationist Jason deCaires Taylor, was inspired by the country’s people, history and folklore. Most celebrated of the sculptures is “Vicissitudes, a circle of two dozen life-size children clasping hands and looking out into the deep.
The sun was starting to descend, so the sloop Savvy turned back toward the resort. We had a little time before dinner to relax on Grand Anse Beach and perhaps splash about in the cool waters. I found myself thinking about the pina colada I planned to order from the Beach Cabana. It will be dusted with nutmeg.