Known as the Spice Isle to visitors, the state of Grenada is composed of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the south-eastern Caribbean Sea.
Its varied topography stretches from the dwarf forests high atop Mount St. Catherine descending to the montane rainforests of middle altitudes, and finally giving way to the dry forests of the lowlands.
Pictured: Carenage harbour in St. George’s, Grenada
These forests in turn shift to mangrove at the coast, giving way to stunning white sand beaches, brilliant blue water, and exquisite coral reefs.
All this makes the islands, while not one of the more visited destinations in the Caribbean, one of the most fascinating.
The islands of Grenada – which are principally composed of the main island and the inhabited sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique - are located in the eastern Caribbean at the southern extremity of the Windward Islands, only 100 miles north of Venezuela.
To the north lie St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to the south Trinidad & Tobago and the nations of South America.
The state itself is an independent nation within the British Commonwealth, with a governor general representing her majesty the Queen. In turn, the country is governed by a 13-member senate and a house of representatives, with a speaker and 15 members, each representing a constituency.
All sit in the island’s capital of St. George’s.
At present there are approximately 110,000 inhabits across the islands, including the 6,521 inhabitants of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Citizens are primarily of African, east-Indian and European descent, with the largest proportion of the population, approximately 75 per cent, of African descent.
During the year, average temperatures on the islands range from 24°C to 30°C, tempered by the steady, cooling trade winds.
The lowest temperatures occur between November and February, while the driest season is between January and May. However, even during the rainy season from June to December, it rarely rains for more than an hour at a time and generally not every day.
Tourists flock to St. George’s, the capital of Grenada
Tourism in Grenada
To many around the world Grenada is simply the home of nutmeg, with the tiny island accounting for over a quarter of the global supply.
But to travellers, the islands are a haven of relaxation – offering a safe, romantic, natural and authentic destination in the Caribbean. A symbiotic relationship with the vital tourism industry has also allowed for the economic development of the region, with Grenada now offering everything from conventional beach tourism, through to water-sports tourism and the developing eco-tourism sector.
Conventional beach and water-sports tourism is largely focused in the south-west of the island, around St. George’s, the airport and the coastal strip. Beaches are the main draw here, with the three kilometre long Grand Anse Beach in St George’s considered to be one of the finest in the world.
Resorts in this area have also been recognised by the prestigious World Travel Awards, with Grenadian by Rex Resorts scooping the title of Grenada’s Leading Boutique Hotel for the past three years.
Spice Island Beach Resort was recognised by the World Travel Awards
Spice Island Beach Resort was also named as Grenada’s Leading Resort in 2009 and 2010.
Over in Saint David and Saint John parishes eco-tourism is developed a strong foothold, with the market characterised by a number of smaller, locally run developments. The island has also pioneered the cultivation of organic cocoa, which is processed into finished bars by the Grenada Chocolate Company.
Cruise ship guests play a vital role in the local economy, with as many as three vessels arriving each day during the peak season.
Grenada’s smaller sister island, Carriacou, is hilly but not mountainous, presenting an ideal destination for walking. The island possesses fine sand beaches and natural harbours, as well as offering excellent views out over the northern Grenadine islands.
Petite Martinique, the third and by far the smallest island in the state, consists of little more than the tip of a volcanic cone poking through the water. However, it is also being developed for visitors.
Grenada has plenty to offer those interested in offshore pleasure as well, with easily accessible and pristine reefs off the coast of both Grenada and Carriacou.
Although the tourist industry has become more substantial in recent years, the island’s easy rhythms and the friendly openness of its residents evoke an atmosphere which has long since vanished elsewhere.
Grenada is a haven for divers
Unsurprisingly – given its history as a British Crown Colony - English is the official language of Grenada, but it is not uncommon to hear a French-African patois spoken.
Visitors are advised to wear casual, light cottons during the day; while in the evenings, elegant casual attire is appropriate. Bathing suits or mini shorts should not be worn in the streets or stores, while long pants and hiking shoes are recommended for hiking.
Major credit cards are accepted by most hotels, car rental companies and shops. Travellers cheques are accepted everywhere.
The Eastern Caribbean Dollar, linked to the US Dollar, is the local currency. Banks will exchange EC$2.67 for US$1.00 cash, and EC$2.68 for US$1.00 in travellers cheques.
There is a General Hospital in St. George’s, a smaller hospital in Mirabeau in the northern parish of St. Andrew, and one in Carriacou. Clinics and doctors can be found throughout the islands; however, standards are likely to vary.
Access to Granada
Visitors to Grenada travel by sea and air, with cruise lines making the capital St. George a popular destination in the region.
International flights stop at Maurice Bishop International Airport, while visitors using Grenada for an inter-island hop are likely to use Lauriston Airport in Carriacou.
Visitors also arrive by yacht, utilising a variety of marinas at which passengers can clear immigration, dock and purchase supplies. Anchorage in the islands is available in most inlets and bays, with island authorities offering a regularly updated list to sailors.
A valid passport and return or onward ticket are required for all visitors. However, proof of citizenship bearing a photograph is acceptable from British, Canadian and US citizens.
A visa is not required from citizens of the US, Canada, UK, British Commonwealth, most Caribbean countries, most European countries, South Korea, and Japan.