Grenada’s Time to Shine

The Spice Island has weathered adversity to become a Caribbean tourism contender

By: By Mark Rogers

Grenada // © 2010 Grenada Board of Tourism

Grenada // © 2010 Grenada Board of Tourism

During the last three decades Grenada was the recipient of a vicious one-two punch that would have shunted less beautiful islands into permanent third-tier status as a tourism destination. In 1983, the island was invaded by the U.S. to quell a coup and ostensibly rescue 800 American students at St. Georges University Medical School. In 2004, the island was decimated by Hurricane Ivan. During both crises, media images and stories reported on an island under siege.

It’s been a hard road back for Grenada, but today the island is fully recovered. During my recent visit, I found Grenada to be a remarkably beautiful Caribbean island of verdant hills, winding roads and expansive sea views, with top-notch hotels and resorts. In many ways, it compared favorably with St. Lucia, another island extolled for its natural beauty and honeymoon appeal.

During lunch at Mi Hacienda, a boutique hillside B&B with wonderful views over Grand Anse Beach, Raelene Lazarus, head of marketing for Grenada Board of Tourism filled TravelAge West in on the island’s tourism picture.

“We’re still rebuilding after Hurricane Ivan, but building better and faster,” said Lazarus. “Tourism was always our number-one earner. Once Ivan blew in, we didn’t have a choice but to focus even more on tourism since agriculture took a hit.”

For example, the hurricane destroyed 82 percent of the island’s nutmeg trees. While much of Grenada’s lush greenery was quickly restored, nutmeg trees take about 11 years to mature.

When asked why travelers should choose Grenada over other Caribbean destinations, Lazarus said, “We’re a safe destination, and the people are friendly. So, there’s no violent crime. We’re still a very quaint island. No buildings are higher than three stories and we plan to keep it that way. We have something for everyone, well, except for those who love nightclubs and casinos.”

Most of the island’s activity is centered around the capital of St. Georges and the long expanse of Grand Anse Beach. On Friday nights, the fishing town of Gouyave sets the table to welcome visitors and locals for a plein air Friday feast complete with local soca and calypso music. If clients visit on the last Saturday of the month, have them check out the Sunset City Food Festival (the town of Sunset City was formerly known as Victoria), where they will find a complete range of island cuisine, from calaloo soup to local rums and spirits.

Top hotels and resorts on the island include Coyaba Beach Resort, La Source, La Luna, Maca Bana, Petit Anse and Spice Island Beach Resort.

“We have enough rooms to meet demand and even when hotels say they’re full they usually have 30 percent of their rooms available,” said Lazarus. “They’re really operating at 70 percent occupancy.”

Two luxury projects are now on hold due to the worldwide economic recession. When they resume, the Four Seasons project will include a 124-room hotel, golf course, marina and private residences, and Phase One of the Levera Beach Resort will include a 40-room boutique hotel.

A quick checklist of tour opportunities on the island includes waterfall hikes, snorkeling above an underwater art museum, touring estates to observe traditional methods of processing cocoa, and visiting sites such as the 18th century Fort George, which overlooks the harbor and Market Square, where the hustle and bustle of St. Georges is at its max.

Grenada is 21 miles long and 12 miles wide. According to Edwin Frank, public relations officer of the Grenada Tourist Board, many visitors rent vehicles during their stay. The main road circles the island and changes its name according to which parish it passes through. Almost every village has a French name, a holdover from the days when Grenada was under French control.

“I recommend hiring a driver for the first day to get the lay of the land and determine which spots you’ll want to come back to explore on your own,” said Frank. “The island has narrow winding roads — we drive on the left — and you’ll encounter a potentially confusing roundabout or two.”

Visitors will notice an absence of street signs, too.

“We had signs but they were blown away and we haven’t found them yet,” said Edwards, laughing. ”We blame everything on the hurricane.”

Granada Board of Tourism

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